A line forms outside Lovelock Safeway early in the morning.
A line forms outside Lovelock Safeway early in the morning.
Most Lovelock shoppers know the checkers by their first names. They don’t have to glance at their nametags. Every day, Richelle, Patty, Paul and Dan check out long lines of Safeway customers. Lorrie, Alicia, Melissa and others bag the groceries or stock the shelves. Since the coronavirus struck, there’s no downtime.

Minnesota and Vermont recently classified grocery clerks as emergency workers. It’s easy to see why. The cashiers and stockers labor in the trenches, risking infection so people can stock up. They witness behavior that probably shocks and saddens them. 

Nationwide, hoarding of toilet paper has resulted in empty shelves and fisticuffs. However, day after day, the Lovelock Safeway crew keeps going.

Safeway acknowledges that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19. That’s why they  recently reserved special hours for seniors and other at-risk members of the community – Tuesdays and Thursdays from opening time until 9 a.m. They also set limits on the purchase of paper products. 

However, one eye-witness expressed disappointment.

“There were still folks lined up and in Safeway on Thursday at 7 a.m., despite the clear notice on the door,” she said. “Clerks stationed at both doors reminded people that shopping for the general public didn’t start until 9 a.m. The clerks were cussed at and verbally abused.”

Panic buying has caused problems for many. Mothers report an inability to find baby formula. 

“I can’t believe people are crazy enough to hoard things our babies need to survive,” said one mom. Online, people swap homemade recipes and exchange 1-800 numbers. According to reports, the manufacturers will send cases to stores and distributors but not individuals.

The effects of the hoarding reverberated through the animal kingdom – all the way to Safe Haven Wildlife Rescue in Imlay. Shoppers grabbed all the available meat from the shelves leaving nothing for donations.

“Feeding is the highest cost of caring for our animals,” said Lynda Sugasa, the founder and director of the rescue. “Your support means the world to us and will put food in the mouths of our lions, tigers, bears, servals, cougars, bobcats, foxes, coyotes and macaws.”

Through online fundraising efforts, the rescue raised enough money to last through April. They hope to hold their thirteenth annual fundraiser on Sat., May 16, at the Winnemucca Convention Center, but who knows what the future holds?

“Depending on the length of time it takes things to return to normal, we may need to ask for more help, but thanks to everyone’s donations, we have the security of another month and a half of food for our residents,” said Sugasa. “These are scary times.”