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Shopper 'flabbergasted' by closure of Oregon grocery store due to COVID-19 cases

A delivery driver reads the notices from the Ogle County Health Department that were taped onto the inside of the entrance doors at the Oregon SuperValu on Wednesday.
A delivery driver reads the notices from the Ogle County Health Department that were taped onto the inside of the entrance doors at the Oregon SuperValu on Wednesday.

A steady stream of vehicles pulled into the empty parking lot at the Oregon SuperValu on Wednesday, not knowing the city’s only grocery store was temporarily shuttered by the Ogle County Health Department because some employees tested positive for COVID-19.

Amanda McCracken, of Dixon, was one of those customers who walked up to the entrance expecting to shop for her elderly father and saw the signs: "Establishment: SuperValu CLOSED by order of the Ogle County Health Department, 7/8/20."

“I had no idea they were closed,” McCracken said through her mask. “The store is always clean, the staff are friendly. I grew up in Oregon, and my family has been shopping here for years.”

She said she was shocked because the store was following all the guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including requiring employees and customers to wear masks, adding social distancing markers on the floor, and constructing plastic shields at the checkout stations separating cashiers from customers, as state guidelines recommended.

Store owner Jim Kaufman of Oregon also bought T-shirts for employees that read “Please Remember to Practice Social Distancing” on the front with a graphic and the words “Please Stay 6’ Away” on the back.

He did so to try to stop customers from approaching his employees as they stocked shelves and performed other duties, Kaufman said.

He also set specific hours for “at-risk” customers and started closing earlier to alleviate staff hours.

“I am flabbergasted,” McCracken said. “They have the shields, and I always saw most of the customers wearing masks. I shop here for my grandfather, too. This is where we go when we need something.”

Wednesday afternoon, Snyder’s Pharmacy across the street posted this on its Facebook page: "Due to the unfortunate temporary closing of the grocery store in Oregon, our Oregon Pharmacy/Ace Hardware will be carrying bread, buns, milk, eggs, hot dogs, bananas, and possibly other items. Wishing a quick recovery for our fellow business in the Oregon community."

Mayor Ken Williams said the health department notified city officials Tuesday of the store’s closure.

“We had the notice ahead of time,” Williams said. “The city has always followed the health department guidelines. Everything is really in the hands of the Ogle County Health Department.”

Williams said he did not know what criteria the health department uses to determine to close a store.

In response to an email asking that question, Ogle County Health Administrator Kyle Auman said only:

"OCHD is working to contact trace employees and get households tested. We are not recommending testing for customers unless they are expressing symptoms. We are working diligently to gather more information to make additional recommendations to the store on how to reopen safely.

"One recommendation beyond employee testing will be storewide cleaning and sanitation that aligns with current CDC guidelines. OCHD will also be recommending stricter employee screening/monitor and prompt reporting of symptomatic personnel to the local health department."

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