WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The elderly and others at risk are finding themselves in a difficult situation because of the threat of the novel coronavirus.
With the state of emergency declared in North Carolina and across the United States, health officials have asked that demographic of people especially to stay home and take extra precautions so they don't get infected with the rapidly spreading disease.
But with the potential for the measures to contain the spread of the disease possibly lasting past the end of the month, many seniors still need vital things like groceries.
The large crowds of people trying to stock up on supplies have landed grocery stores on the list of places the elderly and vulnerable are warned to avoid. So a number of personal grocery shoppers, both professional and those just lending a hand, are stepping up.
Tameka Wells of Winston-Salem dropped off groceries for an elderly couple who were relieved they wouldn't have to deal with empty shelves or risk catching coronavirus trying to find items themselves.
Wells first started in 2017 with InstaCart and was one of the first few personal grocery shopping experts in the Winston-Salem area. Wells built a relationship with several of the grocery stores in the area with more than 5000 grocery runs under her belt in the 3 years since she began and before switching to her own app.
She shops for and delivers groceries to supporting the elderly, sick, and those working at home.
Since the coronavirus hit North Carolina, she has been getting orders to deliver to elderly people who can't get out and about and hits several stores searching for various items.
"For milk, for toilet paper, for the elderly, for people who can't leave the house, or they don't want their family members to leave the house," said Wells as she loaded up her car with groceries which she had just picked up from Publix.
When orders come to Honey Bee Delivery via Dumpling, Wells reviews the shopping lists and calls or texts the clients as she darts in and out of stores, letting them know what's available, what's not available and provides alternatives. She then delivers the groceries to their doorsteps all without needing to make any person-to-person contact.
"A lot of people who are of age and older like to be up and go out and about and many of them go to the grocery store and I don't think at this time that that's the best option for them," added Wells.
People are also gifting groceries through the service. Wells delivered groceries ordered by a lady for her 90-year-old neighbor whom she didn't want to worry about going to the grocery to stock up. Family members are also placing grocery shopping requests for their parents and grandparents.
"My granddaughter is a nurse and she has warned me to stay put she doesn't want me out running errands or doing whatever," said Bobby Leab of Advance, NC.
Leab, who is in her seventies said she went grocery shopping early last week but didn't expect she would need to be indoors till at least early April when health officials hope to contain and flat-line the spread of coronavirus.
"I trust God with that, and I am not afraid but I just want to be wise and my children and granddaughter want me to be wise. She kinda fussed at me saying don't be out, don't be out so I said OK, I won't be out," added Leab.
Before embarking on an average of 5 daily shopping trips for customers, Wells sanitizes extensively, wears rubber gloves, wipes down carts and gets meats last, after which she disposes of the rubber gloves and dons on a new pair. She says this process is critical to ensure the safety of the clients and that she doesn't act as a vector, carrying any germs that could be transmitted to the vulnerable.
"I am one person that they come in contact with that's sanitized instead of multiple people in an uncontrolled environment in the grocery stores," she said.
Aside from the Dumpling App which Wells uses, others like Insta Cart, Insta Shop, Amazon, Walmart, Publix Curbside, Safeway, Beelivery, and Happy Fresh just to name a few also offer the convenience of having a personal grocery shopper deliver directly to your home. Many of those shoppers also offer discounts and coupons.
FACTS NOT FEAR
Remember facts, not fear when talking about the coronavirus. You should take the same measures recommended by health leaders to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses. That means washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and covering coughs and sneezes.
WHERE YOU GET INFORMATION ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS IS IMPORTANT
It is important to make sure the information you are getting about the coronavirus is coming directly from reliable sources like the CDC and NCDHHS. Be careful not to spread misinformation about coronavirus on social media.
NC CORONAVIRUS HOTLINE
The state also has a special hotline set up where you can call 211 for more information on the coronavirus. You can also submit questions online at ncpoisoncontrol.org or select chat to talk with someone about the virus.
You can also text keyword VIRUS to WFMY News 2 at 336-379-5775 to find out more information.