Oregon’s Front Line Hard at Work

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Governor Kate Brown thanks frontline workers in grocery stores, energy providers, truckers, and more

OREGON — While many people are staying home to help flatten the curve and save lives, others save lives at work, like health care workers and first responders. But grocery stores, utility companies, and trucking companies also need their employees to report to work during the COVID-19 crisis.

So how are these organizations changing their practices and keeping both staff and customers safe?

The Alberstons Companies, which includes Albertons and Safeway grocery stores, are installing plexiglass at their checkstands to provide a barrier between customers and clerks. Spokesperson Jill McGinnis says that the company is doing everything it can to provide a safe, secure, and comfortable shopping space for their customers. Floor markers remind shoppers to keep their distance from others and employees are encouraged to follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to wash hands frequently and stay home if they feel sick. President and CEO Vivek Sankaran says “we have seen our customers begin to implement social distancing on their own with our ‘two carts apart’ reminders as they shop our stores, so we think our floor markers will increase awareness.”

Grocery workers take a much-deserved pizza break

Spencer Hall of PacifiCorp, the energy company that provides power for six western states including Oregon and Utah, says that they plan for emergencies like pandemics and natural disasters through tabletop exercises. Those experiences paid off when a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck Salt Lake City on March 18, 2020, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. The quake left 75,000 customers without power, but remarkably employees were able to restore power later that night even with social distancing efforts. Hall credits measures like suspending work vehicle sharing to limit the spread and encourages customers to call the company or visit them online. PacifiCorp announced they are suspending disconnects and late fees in Oregon, California and Washington to assist customers in financial distress.

“Truck drivers are heroes and working hard to keep supplies moving into our area, and onto store shelves” said Jana Jarvis with the Oregon Trucking Association. Jarvis wants people to know that while truck drivers aren’t first responders, they are front-line responders with a unique set of challenges. One of those challenges is getting personal protection equipment (PPE) for drivers. Eating is now trickier too. With dine-in restaurants shuttered, those big rigs can’t fit under a typical drive-through. At least one fast-food chain responded to the challenge. McDonald’s is now offering curbside service especially for truck drivers.

“These frontline workers are working incredibly hard to ensure that Oregonians have what they need to weather these unprecedented times,” Governor Kate Brown said. “And from the bottom of my heart, I say an enormous thank you for your dedication and determination.”

The next time you head out for essential business, while you use social distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, make sure take the time to thank the folks who help you or serve you, and remember to be patient and kind to each other.

Thank you note from customers at an Oregon Safeway

About Author

Deb Curran is a Communications Officer at Oregon's Department of Human Services

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