Starting this Friday, the local grocery store Staff of Life will become one of a few supermarkets offering a senior-only shopping hour from 8am-9am Monday-Friday in light of COVID-19, which poses particular risk to seniors and the medically vulnerable.
The grocery store, which typically opens at 7:30am, will start opening at 9am to the general public. The market will close for the night every evening at 8pm—one hour earlier than before. “We need more time to clean and to stock,” says Hollie Wendt, marketing manager for Staff of Life, where the new hours take effect this Friday, March 20.
Senior-only hours are also in place in a few non-local grocery stores—Safeway, Whole Foods and New Leaf Community Markets. The senior-only hours for Whole Foods and New Leaf are also 8am-9am. For Safeway, those hours are 7am-9am.
The coronavirus strain known as COVID-19 prompted many businesses to close their doors and limit hours, especially after the county established a shelter-in-place order that started on Tuesday. County residents are now forbidden from leaving their homes, except for essential activities like trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank, hardware store, or gas station. Restaurants are open for take-out and food deliveries only.
The combination of anxiety and government orders has shoppers stocking up on canned goods and other groceries. Local officials have asked people to stop hoarding food.
While many Californians are cutting back hours or working from home, store employees are working harder than ever—often in close proximity to others.
Nonetheless, morale at the Staff of Life has been high.
“We’re all just one for all and all for one. Everyone’s morale is really good—especially the younger people. Everyone’s happy. They’re doing their job,” Wendt says.
The Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency announced that there are 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. There have been no reported deaths in the county. California has seen 598 positive cases and 13 deaths. Nationwide, there have been 7,038 confirmed cases and 97 deaths.
The virus is having impacts on other aspects of the Staff of Life’s business. Construction at the store’s unopened Watsonville location has stopped while the county’s shelter-in-place order is in effect, Wendt says. The store’s pastries are now individually wrapped. Staff of Life’s Café del Sol is still open, but the employees have removed all the seating in compliance with the county’s order.
Staff of Life’s senior-only hours aren’t in place on the weekend. Although shoppers must be 65 in order to qualify for a senior discount, the new senior-only shopping hour applies to anyone age 60 or older. On Saturday and Sunday, the store is open from 8am-8pm to all customers.
Wendt says she has been working from home, in part to be close to her husband who is elderly. She has utmost respect for her many co-workers who don’t have that luxury and who are powering through anyway while they help their fellow community members get the goods, foods and services they need.
“That’s what’s so important. Lots of us get to stay home,” Wendt says. “These people are on the front lines.”
For continuing in-depth coverage of the new coronavirus and its effects locally, visit goodtimes.sc/category/santa-cruz-news/coronavirus.
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