SC grocery stores, pharmacies see business boom during COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Mar. 23, 2020 at 8:26 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Hundreds of businesses across the Palmetto State have closed their doors, leaving thousands of people without work. While many South Carolinians are jobless or working from home, hundreds of others are on the front lines, keeping shelves stocked to ensure people can get the groceries and medications they need.

Local grocery stores and pharmacies say this past week has been one of the busiest weeks they’ve ever seen. At 14 Carrot Whole Foods in Lexington, owner Ed Elbrecht says his store has been overwhelmed with business. Employees are working extra hours, and he’s hired extra staff to help meet demand. “It takes all of us to work together to make this happen. I've never seen anything like this in my lifetime," said store clerk Tami O'Brien.

14 Carrot is also supplying hand sanitizer and gloves for every shopper that comes into the store.“It gives our staff a sense of security, which is really important. We can't keep things on the shelves and do the extra jobs that we have right now if we don’t have a full staff," said Elbrecht.

Riley’s Drugstore in Lexington has closed its front doors, and staff are only helping customers through a drive-thru window. “We’re trying to minimize our contacts with each other and our patients, and we’re doing extra sanitizing precautions like everyone else," explained pharmacist Roberta Vining. Vining says her staff are working longer hours to make sure they can provide for customers. “We have had folks wanting to get their medications early, and we have ordered extra stock to make sure we can provide for potential out of stock situations," she explained.

Riley’s Drugstore is also looking into delivering medications, should a need arise to completely close their storefront and drive-thru for the safety of employees. Tuesday, the drugstore will start using Rapid Packs, which will allow them to package medication for the entire month. This is in an effort to limit the volume of customers coming to their store.

As the need for groceries and household items rises, big box stores like Dollar General and Target are looking to hire new employees.

Dollar General announced this morning it plans to nearly double its normal hiring rate and add up to 50,000 employees by the end of April.

Target is offering additional hours and more pay to its current employees, while also working to hire additional staff.

For employees who have been laid off or furloughed, the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce says it’s shifting staff to help with customer service due to the large volume of claims and calls coming into their system. DEW says its team is also monitoring the online unemployment insurance portal and working with vendors to make recommendations to improve capacity and flow.

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