Mar 25, 2020 9:15 PM

Kroger releases latest statement on COVID-19

Posted Mar 25, 2020 9:15 PM

HUTCHINSON, Kan. —The parent company of Dillons issued a statement Wednesday afternoon regarding measures it is taking to protect the public and its employees from COVID-19. Kroger is taking steps to allow senior citizens special shopping hours, waving pickup and delivery fees and reducing operating hours.

The statement reads:

The health and well-being of our associates, our customers and our communities is our top priority. As such, we have formed a task force to activate our pandemic preparedness plan and monitor the evolving situation. This work, like all other work we do, is guided by our values and our promise. To that end, we will seek to make decisions that balance the safety of our associates with our commitments to our customers and communities. Preparedness is in our DNA – our store teams regularly manage through severe weather events, for example, and our teams are always well-prepared to be there when our customers need us most. Especially in times of uncertainty, we believe everyone deserves to have access to affordable, fresh food.

Our task force is coordinating organizational activities to help navigate our business through this public health event and quickly activate our COVID-19 preparedness plan. We also continue to partner with and follow guidance from federal, state and local agencies, including the CDC and other health organizations.

Our associates are working to ensure our in-store, free pickup, delivery and ship services are operational and available to customers. Customers may experience longer lead times, delayed deliveries and limited inventory because of local conditions.

We have adjusted store operating hours based on feedback from our local store leaders to best serve our communities. We will continue to make decisions that allow us to operate clean, open and stocked stores to serve our customers and support our associates.

Please note: Hours of operation listed on Google are not correct. This is an issue impacting retailers across the country and not limited to Dillons, Baker’s and Gerbes.

Special Operating Hours for Seniors and High-Risk Populations

We appreciate the concern and care our customers are expressing for senior shoppers and more vulnerable customers. We are currently testing special hours for senior shoppers. We have reserved the first hour of operations (7a-8a: Mondays through Thursdays or the first hour of operations) for seniors (60+ years of age) and other higher-risk customers as defined by CDC guidelines. We encourage all customers to respect this special time as we work to protect our community.

Overall, we are asking our customers be patient, to be kind to one another and our associates, and to shop responsibly and purchase what you need, knowing that we will continue to replenish stores daily with the supplies and products our customers need most. In every decision we make, we are striving to balance the safety of our associates with our commitments to our customers and communities. We have also been inspired to see local communities working together to shop on behalf of seniors and other higher-risk customers.

As we experience unprecedented levels of business, while also looking to support the people in our community who are looking for jobs right now, we have immediate positions available combined across our retail stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers. Greatest need for newly hired associates are to serve pickup and online shopping needs and order selectors at our distribution centers in Goddard and Hutchinson.

Candidates could be placed for employment within several days of applying: jobs.dillons.com

We want to ensure all our customers have access to in-demand products, we have canceled some promotions and have put limits on product purchases. We are working closely with our suppliers, distribution centers and vendors to replenish our inventories daily.

Our associates are on the frontlines, ensuring Americans have access to the food and products they need during this unprecedented pandemic. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our associates.

Associates are permitted to wear protective masks and gloves. There is a national shortage of personal protective equipment like this and we fully support America’s healthcare workers having first priority to obtain the equipment they need. We are advocating to government officials at all levels for help securing a priority place in line for all grocery workers - after healthcare workers - to have access to protective masks and gloves.

We continue to enhance our daily sanitation practices, including cleaning commonly used areas more often like cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, conveyor belts, food service counters and shelves. Rotations for handwashing for cashiers and courtesy clerks. We are in the process of installing plexiglass shields at many cash registers to further promote physical distancing.

We are taking these steps to protect our customers and associates:

• Cleaning commonly used areas more often, including shopping carts, shopping hand baskets, cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, conveyor belts and food service counters, and cleaning shelves when restocking products.

• Sanitizing restrooms more frequently and restocking with supplies, including soap, paper towels and hand sanitizer.

• Adding extra hand sanitizer at cashier stations, food service counters, and all Pharmacy, The Little Clinic and Starbucks locations.

• Installing floor graphics to provide visual cues for physical distancing in the front-end.

• Posting additional signage on front doors, in stores, and on shelves for customers.

• Scheduling rotation for cashiers and courtesy clerks for proper and frequent handwashing.

• Partnering with our suppliers to replenish high-demand preparedness products.

• Continuing to provide our customers with free disinfectant wipes at our store entrances to sanitize their shopping carts or baskets.

• Maintaining industry-leading best practices for safe food handling

• Encouraging our associates to closely monitor their health and well-being.

• Providing hand sanitizer and tissues in breakrooms and meeting rooms.

• Asking our associates to stay home if they, or someone in their household, are sick.

• Providing financial support from our Helping Hands fund – a company-sponsored employee assistance fund – to associates who may be directly affected.

• Sharing Appreciation Pay for frontline grocery store associates, supply chain, manufacturing and customer service associates for a one-time appreciation bonus: $300 for full-time, hourly associates; $150 for part-time, hourly associates.

• Aiding health and wellness with our dedicated employee assistance program.

• Encouraging our customers and associates to follow the CDC’s suggested hygiene practices to reduce the spread of the virus.

• Recommending that our customers also practice safe food handling at home.

• Asking our customers be patient, to be kind to one another and our associates, and to shop responsibly and purchase what you need, knowing that we will continue to replenish stores daily with the supplies and products our customers need most. In every decision we make, we are striving to balance the safety of our associates with our commitments to our customers and communities.

• Asking customers to limit the number of family members in their party, whenever possible, while shopping in stores to assist with social distancing.

Flu activity is also high in the United States and is expected to continue. The Kroger Family of Pharmacies is offering flu shots as well as other vaccinations at more than 2,100 pharmacies and 225 The Little Clinic locations. Flu shots are available for ages two and up, and high-dose flu shots are available for ages 65 and older. We accept walk-ins and flu shots are covered by most insurance providers, including Medicare, resulting in no out-of-pocket costs.

We are encouraging our associates to closely monitor their health and if they exhibit flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue) at work, they should go home and contact their doctor. If an associate has flu-like symptoms at home, they should not come to work.

Kroger has enacted the Emergency Leave Guidelines policy, allowing paid time off for associates diagnosed with COVID-19 and for associates placed under mandatory quarantine by their medical provider because of COVID-19. All eligible associates will receive their standard pay for up to two weeks (14 days). Guidelines have been expanded those guidelines to also cover COVID-19 related self-isolation and symptoms as verified by a healthcare professional.

For those affected by COVID-19, we have also made available additional resources through Kroger’s Helping Hands fund – a company-sponsored fund that provides financial assistance to associates who are experiencing a financial hardship due to an unexpected or emergency situation.

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Mar 25, 2020 9:15 PM
 Kan. GOP wonders who can defend Senate seat it's taken for granted
Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

By JIM MCLEAN
Kansas News Service 

TOPEKA — A Democrat hasn’t won a U.S. Senate race in Kansas since the early days of the Great Depression.

It took that economic crisis to propel George McGill, riding on Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coattails, to a win. And he served but a single term.

This year, the country finds itself on the cusp of another economic calamity. The COVID-19 epidemic sent the stock market into convulsions, forced all range of business and campaigning into hibernation and put life in limbo.

If the virus continues to escalate across the country, and through Kansas, that might even jeopardize how people in the state vote and how candidates might influence them.

What’s more, the man Republicans thought could most easily hold the U.S. Senate seat that incumbent Pat Roberts is walking away from has, finally, said he’s not interested.

That has the GOP bracing for a bruising primary anchored within its conservative wing — and debating who would run the greatest risk of losing a seat the party’s long been able to take for granted.

Democrats, in turn, see at least a slugger’s chance of sending one of their own.

“It’s a long shot,” said Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty.

Yet if an anti-Trump wave builds in the state’s suburban population centers, he said, “Democrats want to have a candidate that can take advantage of it.”

In 2016, Trump won Kansas by 21 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton. But several polls taken in the last two years and the election of Democrats to Congress and the governor’s office in 2018 suggest that a political shift is possible.

The biggest factor could be who Republicans choose to take on likely Democratic nominee Barbara Bollier, a state senator from vote-rich Johnson County. She defected from the Republican Party just last year.

Republican leaders had pinned their hopes on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He represented Wichita in the U.S. House before joining Trump’s cabinet. But after equivocating for months, he decided not to run.

That, according to early polls, left former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as the frontrunner. That’s got some Republicans nervous.

Kris Kobach won the Republican primary for governor in 2018, but he lost the general election. Credit Scott Canon

Their anxiety stems from Kobach’s loss to Democrat Laura Kelly in the 2018 governor’s race.

Joanna Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told Politico in July that a Kobach nomination would put the party’s “Senate majority at risk.”

In the same article, Roberts said Kobach’s 2018 loss would make winning the Senate race “more difficult.”

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall from western Kansas seizes on those concerns to advance his bid for the nomination.

Marshall says his internal polling suggests he’s got the best chance of winning the November general election.

“It shows us winning by 10 or 20 points while other people in this (primary) race would be in jeopardy of losing,” Marshall said.

Referring to Kobach’s 2018 loss, Marshall asks, “how does a Republican lose a governor’s race in a state that President Trump carried by double digits?”

Republicans at the very top of the party share his concerns, Marshall said. He said the issue of Kobach’s candidacy had come up in meetings with Senate Majority Mitch McConnell and President Trump.

“I always try to keep my consversations in the White House very private,” Marshall said in a recent interview. “But I’ll tell you this, the president is very concerned about keeping the Senate majority.”

Former Gov. Jeff Colyer, right, endorsed U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Credit Jim McLean

Marshall, a retired doctor, represents the 1st Congressional District covering roughly two-thirds of the state. He appears to be Kobach’s chief rival for the nomination. Other candidates include Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle and former Kansas City Chiefs player Dave Lindstrom.

Kobach insists his two successful campaigns for secretary of state show that he can win a statewide general election.

“I will certainly win again,” Kobach said.

Kobach’s connection to Trump benefitted him in previous races. It was the president’s last-minute Twitter endorsement that many believe helped him narrowly defeat sitting Gov. Jeff Colyer in the 2018 gubernatorial primary.

Kobach would like history to repeat, but he doesn’t sound confident when asked if he expects to have the president’s backing.

“Obviously it’s always a great advantage to have the president’s endorsement, but I’m not going to try to predict whether he’ll get involved,” Kobach said.

The concerns raised about his candidacy, he said, come from “establishment” Republicans who fear he’ll be too independent.

“Some of the moderate establishment is uncomfortable with a strong conservative in the Senate seat,” he said. “They would rather have somebody who can be forced to compromise, somebody who doesn’t hold firm on issues.”

Kobach is a polarizing figure. The same hardline positions on immigration and ballot security that endear him to his conservative base alienate moderates and independents.

Marshall has the opposite problem. Despite a voting record that he said aligns with President Trump “98% of the time,” some conservatives remain skeptical of him.

That doubt stems from Marshall’s 2016 primary win over Tim Huelskamp, an incumbent Tea Party favorite.

The national conservative-leaning Club for Growth spent about $400,000 to help Huelskamp. Some of that money paid for a TV ad calling Marshall “a liberal backed by political insiders.”

The group is now working to deny Marshall the U.S. Senate nomination. The Club for Growth recently spent more than $30,000 to place full-page ads in several newspapers that featured anonymous complaints from what it claimed were some of Marshall’s former patients.

Eric Phals, Marshall’s campaign manager, called the ad “garbage” from a “dark money group out of the D.C. swamp.”

Some big-name Kansas Republicans are endorsing Marshall in an attempt to head off a Kobach nomination. They include former Senator and 1996 presidential nominee Bob Dole and Colyer, the former governor defeated by Kobach in the 2018 primary.

“He (Marshall) is a candidate that I’m certain Republicans and all Kansans can get behind for the general election,” Colyer said in endorsing Marshall at a recent news conference in Topeka.

Kansas Democrats believe a Kobach win in the August primary would boost their chances in November.

That’s not entirely wishful thinking, said Michael Smith, an Emporia State University political scientist. He said if Kobach is the Republican nominee, the Senate race could play out much like the 2018 contest for governor.

“A Democratic woman stressing moderate themes, health care and good government defeating Kobach in the general election, it happened in 2018 and it could happen again,” Smith wrote in a recent column for Kansas outlets.

Barbara Bollier, a former Republican, is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. Credit Jim McLean

Bollier, the likely nominee and a retired doctor, who switched parties last year. Touting her moderate credentials and “ability to bridge partisan differences,” she raised more than $1 million during her first three months on the campaign trail.

The people donating to her campaign, Bollier said, “want to see a change in the kind of leadership they have representing them in Washington.”

“They’re tired,” she said, “of bickering.”

Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks or email [email protected]