The JBM-HH Commissary has changed the number of patrons who are allowed at one time. Shoppers are lined up outside of the commissary Tuesday. Photo by Jeffrey Heeney

Arvester Brooks, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commissary officer said that while the COVID-19 situation has affected store operations, his staff is working hard to ensure shoppers are safe and able to get the items they need.

Commissary patrons are now seeing some changes caused by the health scare. He noted that operating hours are now from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Brooks explained that high-risk patron shopping policies are currently being developed by the JBM-HH command team and commissary officials. The store has also instituted several other shopper safety measures.

“We have 100% military identification card check at the entry and we are asking customers to limit cash handling by paying with credit or debit cards,” said Brooks. “As an additional precaution, we are asking patrons not to bring their personal plastic or cloth shopping bags into the store. This is due to health officials’ speculation that the virus hangs on to plastic and other solid surfaces.”

Brooks said that to ensure everyone has a chance to get the items they need the commissary has placed purchase limits on certain products.

“We have a two-item limit on chicken, turkey, fresh beef and pork, and several other prepacked meat department items,” he explained. “There is a two-package limit on water and a one per purchase limit on goods such as toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, sanitizers, bleach and other cleaning supplies.”

Brooks pointed out that commissary staff is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health standards on social distancing. To ensure staff and customer safety he outlined some of the steps they’ve taken.

“We are allowing only 50 shoppers in the store at a time and have sanitizing wipes available at the store entrance,” he said. “Signage on safe practices are posted throughout the store and we have marked off 6-feet increments in the checkout lane. If you have a large shopping cart and are behind it, that gives you that approximate 6 feet distance.”

Although there are limits to purchasing certain items, Brooks said there are still challenges.

“Keeping the store stocked has been a challenging, but our distributor and (Defense Commissary Agency) is doing the best they can with the available resources,” he said.

The store was also faced with an issue of managing more truck deliveries, he said.

“Normally we get one truck of dry goods and one truck of chilled goods delivered each day,” said Brooks. “Now we are getting three trucks with dry goods and two trucks with chilled items. We want to get these items out to the customers, so I reached out to our military commanders for help, and they came through for us.”

Since March 24, JBM-HH Marines and Soldiers have been helping at the store. Brooks said the service members are following the same safety measures as store employees.

“Without this assistance, we would not be able to have the store shelves stocked,” he added.

With the goal to continue to keep the commissary operating as safely as possible for the local community, Brooks asked patrons to be patient.

“Please follow our policies and be patient with us as we get through this event,” Brooks said. “We thank our customers who have been patient. This is your commissary, and we want you to be able to continue shopping safely.”