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CASA GRANDE — For pharmacist Jose Cortez, the safety of the staff and patients at Casa Grande Pharmacy has been a top priority throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, our goal has been to set a good example for the public by implementing safety measures,” Cortez said. “We’ve taken it seriously right from the beginning.”

Casa Grande Pharmacy, an independently owned pharmacy on Florence Boulevard, already had a glass barrier in place in its store before social distancing and safety measures went into effect.

“The glass provides a barrier between staff and the public and keeps people safe,” Cortez said. “Even so, we immediately had staff begin to wear gloves and face masks when working with the public.

To comply with social distancing, only one customer at a time is allowed inside the store to pick up prescriptions or supplies.

“If someone is picking up a prescription, they’re the only customer in the store at that time,” Cortez said.

As another safety measure, the store began encouraging customers to refill prescriptions online and to take advantage of the free delivery service rather than visiting the store.

“We tried curbside pickup for a while but I felt that the staff was better protected from COVID-19 when they were inside behind the barrier,” Cortez said. “Going out to cars to take medications exposed them more than when they were inside.”

Over the past few months, requests for home delivery service have increased.

“Deliveries shot up. We want to make sure our drivers are protected too, so they wear gloves and face masks,” Cortez said.

Working in a pharmacy is a job that involves contact with people, and the risk of exposure to disease is a part of the job, Cortez said.

As an Army veteran who served for more than 10 years, Cortez said he’s accustomed to stress, so the added stress of working with the public during a pandemic didn’t bother him.

And he said he’s alert to the needs of the other store employees.

“Some of them do have families and they do worry about being exposed and passing it on to their families,” Cortez said. “I tell everyone that if they’re feeling overwhelmed or they need time off, to let me know. Working during a pandemic is very stressful.”

When employees finish the day, they’re encouraged to follow good hygiene and safety protocols at home.

“I encourage them to wash their hands frequently, take a shower and change as soon as they get home and do the things they need to do to minimize the risk to their families,” Cortez said.

Casa Grande Pharmacy opened about five years ago.

As well as prescription medications, the store also sells face shields, N95 masks, nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer and other items that have been selling quickly throughout the past few months.

“From the beginning we’ve taken the coronavirus very seriously,” Cortez said. “And we’re continuing to take it seriously. Even though people think it’s getting better, we’re going to continue to follow all the extra safety protocols until we get the all-clear.”

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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