Faces of the Frontlines: Reassuring the public, keeping groceries on shelves and doors open
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In his normal world, Wyatt Wolford would be spending his days in class at Hayden High School learning, and he would be spending his final days hanging out with friends and looking forward to high school graduation.
But instead the 18-year-old senior finds himself on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19 and taking on a heroic role performing his duties at the Steamboat Springs Safeway store during a pandemic.
“I was supposed to graduate in May,” Wolford said. “I kind of do everything. It just depends. There are times when I’m stocking; other times I might be putting together an end cap, and sometimes, it’s helping in the front. It just changes every day.”
In a normal world, these tasks would seem routine, but nothing has been normal since the impacts of the novel coronavirus arrived in the U.S. back in March.
“I feel like people may have taken what we do for granted before,” Wolford said. “They thank us for coming to work, they thank us for being open, and they thank us for providing the food they need. I feel like people notice us more than they used to.”
Wolford is part of the team at Safeway that has endured the crazy days at the start of the pandemic and has been there through it all to reassure the community.
“It was crazy at first,” Wolford said of the first few weeks when there was a mad rush for toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies and the basic staples. He saw the fear in people’s faces because they were worried that the store would not have what they needed in a world turned upside down by COVID-19.
Wolford said the fear that created the initial rush where customers hoarded toilet paper has eased a bit. It’s still hard to find disinfectant wipes, hand gel and a few other items. But on most days, Wolford is still busying stocking shelves with essential items, checking out the customers that walk through the doors and making sure those high touch areas are cleaned and sanitized.
“With most items, we’ve gotten so much better,” Wolford said. “Our toilet paper aisle looks great. We normally have pasta, and we’ve been doing pretty good on soups. There is still a demand for those non-perishable items, but it is getting better.”
Wolford said he has also been able to get past his own fear of getting sick with COVID-19 and, instead of worrying, simply focuses on following the procedures that have been put in place to make sure he isn’t exposed to the virus.
“I was (scared) for a little bit, but now I’m just like if I get it, I get it,” Wolford said. “I’m always around people. My biggest fear is if I get it, and I don’t know, then sharing it with other people. But I’m always washing my hands, we wear face masks, and it’s just important being protected.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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