COVID-19 pandemic effects felt at local level

The effects of COVID-19 have been felt all over the world, with businesses in Preeceville and the surrounding area feeling the repercussions.

"COVID -19 has affected our business and all the other businesses in our area and really all over the world,” said Shannon Nelson, manager of Paul’s Drugstore. The store has been in the Paul family for 82 years.

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“COVID-19 isn’t something anyone was prepared for, it shocked the world and still I’m not sure anyone really knows how to feel or what to think,” Nelson continued. “It’s scary and frustrating and kind of sad to see how so many people became selfish in times of panic. We are so lucky to live where we are because we didn’t have to deal with the craziness that has gone on in some of the bigger centres,” stared Nelson.

The drugstore has been affected in many ways due to this pandemic.

"First of all, we didn’t really know what to do or what not to do,” said Nelson. “We had staff scared to come in contact with people, which in our line of work is almost impossible. We had staff scared to go home at the end of the day in case they caught something and may pass it on to their loved ones. We even lost a valuable employee that just couldn’t take the chance of passing anything on to her loved one with no immunity. At the end of the day we want to take care of our patients and make sure all the people we value and care about are getting what they need and are staying healthy, but it’s been a very different route of being able to get that done.

“Business is much quieter than normal but our staff has done a lot more running to try to keep everyone safe. We used to love our customers coming in and visiting with us while they got their shopping, now that’s not an option. We miss that and I’m sure the customers miss it to. We have offered free delivery to both Preeceville and Sturgis customers every day and it’s been really strange to walk up to a door, ring the door bell and leave their stuff and run so we are able to keep our social distance. “

The drugstore chose to temporarily shut down its Lottery terminal, photo machine and blood pressure machines to keep traffic to a minimum. They felt those were not a necessity to maintain during such a time, therefore that too has made a difference from a business point of view.

The Saskatchewan drug plan has also put in place more restrictions than they had in the past which has caused some confusion and even some anger for some when dealing with prescriptions.

"So much of what we are dealing with is out of our hands and yet we are the ones having to implement the rules, which can be frustrating,” said Nelson. “I really do have to say thank you to our customers though, because for the most part they have been wonderful, respectful, patient and understanding while we all try to figure out what to do.

“We have seen customers that normally don’t shop local, shopping local because of restrictions, which is about the only positive that has come out of all this. We wish everyone health and thanks for sticking this out with us. We are all in this together,” concluded Nelson.

Preeceville Shop Easy, the only grocery store in Preeceville, has also taken addition precautionary measures. It is owned and operated by Darin Newton.

The store has taken extra measures as sanitizing carts and tills between customers,

extra hand washing and sanitizer available for staff as well as one by entrance for customers. It has been accepting email and phone orders and has been offering free local delivery and pickup in town and to Sturgis. The store is limiting to 10 customers in the store at a time and has closed the deli temporarily but is still slicing and packaging deli meats. Washrooms are closed to the public, no rain checks are being offered on flyer items due to lack of supplier availability and limits in certain items.

“Most of our customers have been great, respecting social distancing in the store and understanding the guidelines," said Newton. "But there have been some that don't seem to understand why they have to wait to get into the store and do not seem to understand why everyone is worried and do not seem to get it. It s very dishearten to hear comments like that from our customers. My staff are worried, stressed and tired and I am worried for them.”

The Golden West Hotel has been forced to only offer takeout and offsale services.

"It has been difficult with having to lay off most of my staff," said Shannon Prestie. "My dedicated and loyal customers have been great with their continued support to order takeout food. I am very optimistic that as soon as we are able to we can reopen our doors to welcome my staff and customers back.”

The Gateway Co-op has made changes across all locations.

"We have adapted more cleaning and sanitation methods in all departments and built a barrier between staff and customers at each till and have limited people into each location," said Brad Chambers, general manager. "We have installed markers to better help customers with social distancing and offer curbside pick up and delivery of food and liquor products. For the most part it has been business as usual with no staff layoffs required. The diversity of Co-op has even allowed us to give out employees an appreciation increase in pay," he concluded.

Preeceville Agencies office is currently closed to the public but has seen an increase in email and phone inquiries. "Despite being closed to the public we are still taking appointments. We are encouraging people to use the website to renew automobile plates but we are still here to answer all questions," said Meghan Nelson, owner of Preeceville Agencies.

Church services have also been affected.

"We no longer have people attending church services in a normal sense," said Reverend Miles Russell, of the Preeceville and Sturgis United Church Ministerial. "The work level has shifted with services streamed online over Facebook or Zoom. This practice is not new to us as we have for the last year been streaming services online. Funeral's are complicated, we usually are in contact with families over the phone or through emails and services only allow 10 people maximum," he said.

The church conducts no board meetings with no activities planned. "It is a different time with social distancing and many guidelines that need to be respected. For myself as a minister, I am leery but respect the rules and have little contact with people these days," concluded Russell.