A look back: How H-E-B has played a vital role in Texas during pandemic

Local News

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — It has been one year since the pandemic changed the way we live our daily lives; From the way we interact with each other, learn, and shop few aspects of life were spared. Here is a look back at how the grocery giant H-E-B has worked to keep shelves stocked, employees safe, and the public healthy.  

Exactly one year ago, on March 17, 2020, we showed you this video of hundreds waiting in line outside a Harlingen H-E-B. Images of people standing so close together with no masks seem almost foreign a year later.  

March was a whirlwind of a month. As news of a virus creeping its way closer to home reached the ears of Valley residents, worry began to set in, and the term ‘panic buying’ became a part of everyone’s vocabulary.  

Those waiting in this line were already shopping by new guidelines aimed at keeping enough products in stock for everyone. H-E-B had to put limits on items like hand sanitizer, disinfectants, water bottle cases, rubber gloves, and almost inexplicably, toilet paper.  

The story had even decided to reduce hours to give employees time to restock.  

H-E-B released the following statement on March 10 after the bulk buying became a problem: 

“We understand our customers want to prepare by stocking up on essentials. But panic does not promote progress. We’ve implemented limits on certain items because we know limits will help protect the supply chain in Texas.” 

The grocery chain began expanding its services to accommodate the social distancing needs, offering free delivery for senior citizens who we had only just started finding out were the most vulnerable to the virus.  

For employees, H-E-B began to offer extra pay and masks as they quickly became some of the most essential workers.  

By March 20, the Rio Grande Valley reported its first COVID-19 case. A young man in Cameron County who had recently returned from travels abroad was the first to receive the dreaded diagnosis.  

It did not take long after that for the virus to spread to employees in the store. By April, news of infected employees made headlines.  

While the state argued over mandatory facial coverings, cases in the Valley began to spike in June. The area became a ‘COVID-19 hotspot.’ 

New shopping protocols became the norm, as people began to realize the necessity of distancing and facial coverings. Employees played a vital role, disinfecting everything that was frequently touched like shopping cars and self-checkout registers.   

Slowly but surely, items, like toilet paper, that were difficult to get at the start of the pandemic came in stock.  

Fast forward to February 2021, an unexpected disaster caused shortages once again.  

Just as vaccines started making their way to the Valley, winter weather began causing problems on Texas roadways.   

Winter storm expected to cause distribution delays across Texas

The Rio Grande Valley could not have been less prepared to deal with a pandemic amid a historic cold snap. A failed power grid left the majority of Texas in the dark, the water stopped flowing for many, and food insecurity rose as stores were cleared out.  

With the damage from the storm still present in our lives and fresh in our memories, there is hope in this present moment. Vaccines are becoming more readily available in the RGV and in some parts of Texas, H-E-B has already begun to offer them.  

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