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Changes In Store

Services Altered As COVID-19 Cases Rise Across Region

Northwest Bank, pictured in downtown Jamestown, said beginning Monday it will require appointments for customers to use branch lobbies. A similar move by several banks took place in the spring to limit close contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

As COVID-19 cases increase across New York state, several businesses in Western New York have announced changes to operation.

Northwest Bank said beginning Monday, access to all branch lobbies will be limited to appointment only during normal business hours to control the number of people any one time. The Warren-based Northwest, along with several banks, made a similar move in the spring, which it deemed successful with “minimal customer impact.”

All drive-throughs will remain open during normal business hours at Northwest locations. Customers who need to access a safe deposit box or have banking needs that can only be addressed in person can schedule an appointment by calling their local branch or using the bank’s online appointment scheduler.

The change is due to increasing COVID-19 cases across the company’s footprint.

“These temporary changes are being made out of an abundance of caution as preventative measures to decrease the number of people interacting within our branches and create greater social distance between our teams and customers, as recommended by the Federal Coronavirus Task Force and Centers for Disease Control,” said Northwest spokeswoman Melanie Clabaugh.

“We are fully-committed to ensuring that every customer can interact with us and continue to conduct all banking transactions,” she continued.

“However, these steps are critical to help prevent the spread of the disease and necessary to ensure the health and safety of everyone. We are closely monitoring the situation, collecting first-hand knowledge from each of our operating regions, state and local governments and our regulators (FDIC, OCC and the Federal Reserve), and will continue to adapt our retail delivery model and workforce as the situation evolves.”

According to a report this week by CNBC, Walmart locations will resume monitoring and counting the number of customers entering stores. Dating back to April, Walmart has been restricting the number of customers not to exceed five per every roughly 1,000 square feet, or about 20% of capacity.

“We know from months of metering data in our stores that the vast majority of the time our stores didn’t reach our self-imposed 20% metering capacity,” a Walmart spokesman told CNBC. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have resumed counting the number of people entering and leaving our stores. We know from months of metering data in our stores that the vast majority of the time, our stores didn’t reach our self-imposed 20% metering capacity.”

Local grocers are also making changes with the increased cases and upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Wegmans said it is limiting items on certain products to “ensure we can serve the immediate needs of our customers and minimize out-of-stock items.” Those items include facial tissue, napkins, household cleaners, peanut butter and freezer bags, among others.

At the onset of the pandemic, several items including bath tissue were bought in bulk across the country, leaving many shelves empty.

“To ensure we have options available for customers in every category, we have spent the last several months sourcing additional suppliers, bringing in new brands, and working with our Wegmans Brand suppliers to build up our holiday and winter reserves,” Wegmans said in a statement Monday.

Tops Markets on Tuesday updated the list of items that would be limited to customers. They include household cleaners, bath tissue multi-packs, disinfectant wipes and sprays, oatmeal, peanut butter and sugar, among other items.

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