Smith Hymes: On the front lines in this coronavirus fight | VailDaily.com
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Smith Hymes: On the front lines in this coronavirus fight

Sarah Smith Hymes
Valley Voices

When we think of the front lines in battle, the friendly check-out clerks in our local grocery stores don’t come to mind. But they should, because they are.

They can’t work from home or respect the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s directive to minimize contact with other people. They are as concerned as the rest of us, but it is all hands on deck at our grocery stores — closing their doors isn’t an option. Grocery and pharmacy staff come to work every day so we can stockpile for an uncertain future.

Having had an odd sensation in my chest at the grocery store on Friday — a visceral reaction to lines of people and empty shelves — I checked in with our local groceries on Sunday to get us an update on toilet paper deliveries and other pressing supply-chain details. While wrangling an unwieldy train of shopping carts, Kelli, an assistant manager at City Market, took the time to explain that at times demand has outstripped deliveries and restocking, but the Denver Warehouse is fully stocked and supplies are on their way.

Herb, another assistant manager, filled me in on steps the company has taken to alleviate employees’ stress and manage the unprecedented buying across its 139 Colorado stores. Store hours have been shortened to allow more time to restock shelves and disinfect to protect staff and customers to the greatest extent possible while continuing to provide this essential community service.

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I also walked the aisles at Walmart to gauge Sunday’s shopping frenzy (some empty shelves, normal lines), and then asked to speak to the store manager. The reaction was startling and impressive. Within moments, I was faced with a semi-circle of six Walmart professionals — four local, two sent from somewhere up the corporate chain to help.

They, too, were reassuring and informative: shortened store hours to allow for deeper cleaning and disinfection, extra drivers and delivery trucks, intact supply chain, small bottles of hand sanitizer for customer use to replace the big bottles that have been swiped, and a sick leave policy that gives workers two weeks’ pay if they have to isolate at home.

Small gestures of community support and gratitude, like ice cream for marathon stocking sessions and donated face masks from customers, go a long way to lift the spirits of these front-line workers.  

We are all faced with health concerns and a screeching halt to our livelihoods. At the town of Avon, we have robust reserves and are well prepared to weather an uncertain economic future and continue to deliver essential municipal services.

Just as important, we are working closely with our citizen committees and community partners to help mitigate the impacts of this unprecedented disruption by identifying and connecting people to all available resources. We’re in this together, and we are here to help.

Sarah Smith Hymes is the mayor of the town of Avon. Email her at shymes@avon.org.


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