COVID-19 And Businesses: North Star And La Cantera Malls Begin Curbside Sales | Texas Public Radio

COVID-19 And Businesses: North Star And La Cantera Malls Begin Curbside Sales

Apr 21, 2020

Businesses and city services for workers continued to adjust throughout the coronavirus crisis. As restrictions on the community changed to reflect current health conditions, businesses expanded hours, offered new retail services and looked for more employees.

The city and county, along with non-profits, offered new solutions for workers, including new bus routes, assistance with employment and support for workers dealing with disabilities and mental health issues.

Here are the latest developments:

Malls

Chicago-based Brookfield properties announced North Star Mall and The Shops at La Cantera will open for curbside services on Friday, April 24.

A list of participating stores and store hours was available on the malls' websites.

Customers can order products online, and employees of participating stores will fulfill the orders and bring them curbside to customers to maintain social distancing.

Payment will be done electronically to avoid contact. Designated parking areas for participating stores will be marked for pickup.

Customers will contact their store upon arrival and give store employees details about their vehicle to complete the delivery. Customers should also make sure space is cleared in a vehicle to minimize contact.

H-E-B

H-E-B and Favor Delivery have introduced a new service that allows customers to have grocery essentials delivered straight to their doorstep in two hours or less.

In addition to H-E-B Curbside and Home Delivery, Texans can now use Favor’s new Express Delivery service to have products delivered from every H-E-B, Central Market, and Joe V’s store in Texas.

With Express Delivery, customers can choose up to 25 items from a selected list of groceries and essentials, such as dairy, meat, produce, beer and wine and more.

Also, starting on Monday, April 27, H-E-B stores will open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. until further notice.

Company officials said the expanded hours follow improvements in the supply chain of products. They plan to ease product limits on many items and reopen bakeries, delis and floral departments.

Most H-E-B Pharmacies will continue to operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and their normal weekend hours.

Currently, all Joe V’s Smart Shop locations are open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Also starting Monday, April 27, Central Market stores will change their store hours to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Mi Tienda locations will update store hours to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

But as hours of operation changed, safety measures remained in place. H-E-B continued to provide employees masks and gloves for use at work. The gear was also provided to Central Market, Joe V's Smart Shop and Mi Tienda locations.

All H-E-B partners, warehouses, manufacturing, and transportation facilities were encouraged to wear masks.

People wait to enter H-E-B.
Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio

Plexiglass partitions remained at checkout stands, and managers continued to meter entry into stores and institute crowd control guidelines to manage customer traffic.

The grocery chain also continued to work with a few local restaurants to bring in some of their beloved menu items as ready-made meals, including Max & Louie’s and Rosarios.

The grocery chain reported they received offers of volunteer help. However, they said the best way for customers to help them is to bag their own groceries, throw away trash in carts and return carts to the front of the store.

It also suggested shopping for neighbors in need.

Assistance for job seekers

Goodwill San Antonio is offering virtual career coaching and job search assistance during the pandemic.

Job seekers in the San Antonio metropolitan area may access career coaching, resume writing, interview coaching, job search assistance and connections to community resources to address basic needs by contacting a Goodwill San Antonio Career Services Associate.

Goodwill San Antonio has also put together a resource page on the agency’s website that includes a current list of employers who are hiring and links to online job readiness tools and other community resources.

Details can be found at GoodwillSA.org. Job seekers may also contact an associate by phone at 210-756-4800 or via email at GCCManagement@goodwillsa.org.

Also, San Antonio area residents who have lost their jobs and healthcare because of COVID 19 do not have to opt for COBRA.

Texas-based Foundation Communities can help determine if area residents qualify for a special enrollment period for a federally-subsidized marketplace health insurance plan.

Email enroll@foundcom.org, or visit foundcom.org/prosper-centers/health-coverage to learn more.

Booz Allen recently reallocated $100 million to support its 27,000 employees – including those in San Antonio.

Booz Allen said San Antonio was one of ten cities to receive additional, targeted support from the program.

Part of the money helped its nearly 600 local employees with childcare or healthcare costs related to the virus. Workers were also guaranteed a job through at least July 1.

The company also made donations to help military members and the San Antonio Food Bank.

Assistance for mental health, rent, mortgage, homelessness

Bexar County has partnered with community agencies to create a safety net of services for adults and children suffering due to mental health problems, substance abuse, and disabilities. The effects of COVID-19 can be especially difficult for those experiencing mental health concerns.

Gilbert Gonzales, director of the Bexar County Department of Behavioral Health, said visitors may review the services offered at Bexar.org.

The City of San Antonio continues to operate hotlines for those with COVID 19 health concerns, rental and mortage assistance, and one for those suffering from homelessness.

Callers with questions about COVID-19 should continue to call the Metro Health hotline at 210-207-5779. Callers seeking rental or mortgage assistance should call 210-207-5910 or visit their special website.

The Homeless Connections Hotline is 210-207-1799.

Assistance for businesses

The League of United Latin American Citizens and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce launched the Save Latino Businesses Campaign in response to business closures related to COVID 19.

The United States is home to nearly 5 million Latino-owned businesses that generate $800 billion in revenue. About 60 million Latinos in the U.S. generate $2.3 trillion annually.

LULAC and the chamber sent a letter to the Treasury secretary and head of the Small Business Administration to demand immediate additional funding and economic relief for minority and Latino-owned small businesses.

LULAC President Domingo Garcia said Latino businesses closed across the country because they were excluded from stimulus payments and were unable to access small-business loans to stay afloat.

Toyota

Beginning the week of May 4, Toyota intends to gradually resume its North American manufacturing operations in compliance with federal health and safety guidelines, and local and state ordinances where its facilities are located.

Toyota reports the health and safety of its employees and stakeholders remain a top priority and have implemented new protocols at all of its North American manufacturing plants to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The company indicates it will continue to follow all safety guidelines and monitor vehicle demand as it carefully ramps up production.

San Antonio and Bexar County first responders and medical personnel were the first to receive face shields produced at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas.

The facility temporarily pivoted to commercial grade face shield production to help meet the shortage of personal protective equipment through the end of April. It aimed to produce 75,000 face shields.

VIA

VIA Metropolitan Transit began operating on an “Essential Service” schedule on Monday, April 27th.

It explained that that it would maintain or improve current schedules for routes that continued to see high ridership and would adjust others based on changing conditions such as lower demand and available resources.

The new schedule was designed to preserve “essential service” for those who must travel for work at an exempted business or operation, obtain food and supplies or help care for others.

Several routes moved to “Sunday” schedules with some exceptions, including additional frequency on select routes that continued to be highly utilized.

VIA limited ridership on its buses on April 8th. A VIA bus typically carries 35 to 40 passengers.

VIA said the move was designed to increase social distancing aboard buses and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Once a bus reached capacity, it displayed a message that read “At Safe Capacity,” Boarders would have to wait for the next bus if they saw the message.

Walmart

Walmart offered a special curbside pickup hour for customers older than 60, first responders, disabled customers and anyone else the CDC considers high-risk for COVID-19.

When customers visit the store website to place an order, they may select "At Risk Only" to opt into the service.

Select stores set aside the 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. time slot for the at-risk group, who were welcome to pick up items at any hour of store operations, but that early morning hour was set aside especially for them.

In a statement, the store explained that the point of pickup would be contact-free. Store workers will place the groceries in the customers' vehicle, and no signature was required.

To find a participating store in your area, check this location map.

It was the latest in a series of changes to Walmart's store operations. Stores now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at any given time.

Store employees have marked a queue at a single store entrance, and they direct arriving customers there.

Customers are admitted inside on a “1-out-1-in” basis.

The store is already checking the temperatures of its employees when they arrive for work using infrared thermometers. Employees with temperatures of 100 degrees or more will be sent home. Masks and gloves have also been sent to all stores for employees to wear.

Walmart store hours are 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at most locations.

Also, the store is hiring thousands of new associates through the end of May for stores, clubs, distribution, and fulfillment centers to keep up with customer demand placed on the retailer by the coronavirus. Visit Walmartcareers.com to apply.

Hand sanitizer production

A variety of companies in San Antonio or with connections to the city announced they were producing hand sanitizer.

A worker at Maverick Whiskey distillery.
Credit Courtesy photo

Valero Energy Corporation recently announced its ethanol plant in Hartley, Iowa, was manufacturing sanitizer in bulk quantities. It said it distributed its sanitizer to its ethanol plants and refineries and to local hospitals and emergency care providers.

Several distilleries said they were also producing hand sanitizer.

Maverick Whiskey said it would give most of its product to the City of San Antonio, local health care workers and essential safety organizations. The company planned to continue production as long as ingredients were available. They asked for donations in the form of yellow dent #2 corn to continue production.

Also getting into the act were Rebecca Creek Distillery, which donated up to 3,000 bottles to the city; Artisan Distillery, which sold its 750 ml bottles for $10 each; and Alamo Distilling, which produced 5,000 cases of 1.7 ounce hand sanitizer for shipping to local drug and grocery stores.

To learn how to donate or to buy the distilleries' sanitizers, check their websites or social media accounts.

Communications

The nation’s largest cell phone and data providers continue to adjust business practices to serve consumers and business. Find out the latest about your provider by checking out the links below:

Verizon / AT&T / T-Mobile / Sprint

Insurance premium refunds

San Antonio-based USAA returned $520 million to its members as a result of data showing members are driving less due to stay-at-home guidance across the country.

USAA reported members with an auto insurance policy in effect as of March 31, 2020, received a 20% credit on two months of premiums. The credit was automatic. Members do not need to contact USAA.

USAA also offered payment deferrals on payments on mortgage and vehicle loans and other types of consumer loans. More information is available at usaa.com/coronavirus.

State Farm reported financial relief was available for people struggling to make ends meet. Insurance policy holders may call their local agent for help.

Questions about State Farm bank products can be answered by calling 1-877-SF4-BANK. Questions about credit cards can be directed to 1-877-SF4-VISA.

Allstate returned $600 million to auto insurance customers in April and May because driving times were way down. The return for their average customer is 15% of their money back based on their April and May premiums.

The money went automatically back into the accounts used to pay them. Allstate also offered payment relief, extended coverage and free identity protection.

GEICO gave a 15 percent credit to auto and motorcycle policy holders at renewal times from April 8th through October 7, 2020. New policies purchased during the same time received the credit too. Customers need to take no action.

GEICO estimated the average auto policy holder received $150 and average motorcycle policy holder $30. Learn more at geico.com/about/coronavirus.

Progressive waived late fees and canceling policies over non-payments through May 15th. Questions can be directed to 1-800-Progressive.

Liquor stores

Liquor stores are considered essential businesses during the virus outbreak.

WB Liquor & Wine said customers can order online and pick up orders at the store. Drive through locations can be found at wbliquors.com/stores.

Store hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. But store hours near Costcos are 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Gabriel’s and Twin Liquors both offer online ordering and in-store pickup and delivery.

Gabriel’s Monday through Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Twin Liquors is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Taco Cabana

Taco Cabana offered beer and margaritas to go with food purchases at its drive through windows and online. It said salsas and sauces are prepackaged.

It offered free delivery through April 30th. Orders can be placed online at tacocabana.com.

It has increased stringent hand washing protocols for all employees.

Taco Cabana hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Whataburger

Whataburger said employees must double wash their hands and use hand sanitizer every 30 minutes while on the job at their restaurants.

Credit Wikimedia Commons | https://bit.ly/2OXgDtS

Company officials said employees were trained in hygienic food handling procedures and that rigorous cleaning and disinfecting continued throughout its restaurants where high contact occured.

The San Antonio-based burger chain offered curbside pickup in addition to its drive-thru. Orders can be placed on online at Whataburger.com.

Costco

Costco limited the flow of customers into its stores. No more than two people may enter the warehouse with each membership card.

It changed weekend hours of operation, so check with your nearest Costco.

Stores continued to close at 6:30 p.m. on weeknights, and the 8 a.m. hour remained reserved for seniors Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Costco said it increased sanitation of high touch areas such as shopping cart handles and shelves.

Social distancing measures continued inside and outside its stores.

Target

Target distributed masks and gloves to employees in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

It also limited the number of customers in the store at the same time and set up outdoor social distancing markers, so customers may have to wait to enter.

Employees helped guide customers through the store in a efficient manner along with signage, audio messages and floor decals.

The store previously implemented sanitation at checkout lanes after every transaction and plexiglass to separate customers and checkers.

Target temporarily stopped accepting in-store product returns and exchanges. 

Stores closed at 9 p.m. for cleaning and stocking. They reserved the hour between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. for seniors and those with underlying medical conditions.

Restaurant information

To help keep local restaurants and the 57,000 food service employees in the city afloat, NOWCastSA created this map.

Get added by emailing news@nowcastsa.org with subject line, "AddMeToTheMap"

More restaurant resources

A website helped customers learn which restaurants and other food related businesses stayed open and offered takeout.

SATakeOut.com provided an interactive map for San Antonians to locate eating establishments, their hours of operation and their food offerings.

The website was the brainchild of Belkis Lane, an equipment and supply specialist at Mission Restaurant Supply. She said she launched it as a community service and not to monetize it.

Hundreds of restaurants and food related businesses were listed. Restaurants not listed had the option of signing up at the website too.

The city also created a special website for restaurants, specifically for customers craving their favorite dishes. Check it out here.

Mi Tierra sold much of its food because its dining hall had to close to the public.
Credit Nathan Cone | Texas Public Radio

Restaurant owners may also add their establishments to the list.

Businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak may find assistance from Culinaria Emergency Relief Fund, San Antonio Tip Jar, Bartender Emergency Assistance Program and Dining Bonds Initiative.

UberEats / DoorDash / Grubhub

Uber Eats waived for delivery fees for restaurants.

Uber also offered no contact deliveries to homes by leaving orders on doorsteps as restaurants seal meals with tamper-evident packaging.

Food delivery service company Door Dash also offered a no contact delivery option for customers, and its delivery personnel used hand sanitizer and gloves while on the job.

Grubhub suspended collection of up to $100 million in commission payments from impacted independent restaurants whose on-site dining revenue suffered as diners stayed home.

Border crossings change hours of operation

International bridges between Brownsville and Del Rio changed their hours of operation on April 6th.

The Customs and Border Protection Laredo Field Office has seen a significant decrease in crossings because of the closure of the border to non-essential traffic.

CBP said the change in operational hours will allow officials to observe necessary safety requirements.

Eight crossings were affected, including those in Eagle Pass, Rio Grande City, and Donna.

CBP officials said these were the new hours of operation for processing of northbound passenger vehicle traffic:

  1. Eagle Pass International Bridge I: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  2. Falcon Dam International Bridge: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (since April 2)
  3. Rio Grande City International Bridge: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more news updates on changes in the Valley and along the border, check out TPR's RGV blog.

Funeral services

Helen Loring Dear of Porter Loring Mortuaries said mourners may go to porterloring.com and upload pictures of themselves and messages.

Both are printed up and placed on thick paper with faces on the front and messages on the back. Then they are placed in the pews at indoor services.

“This makes it look like the people that sent messages are actually there for the service,” she said.

The new practice was called From My Heart to Yours. She said it was inspired by an Italian priest who had all of his congregation printed up for display during live-streamed sermons.

Mission Park Chapels and Cemeteries offered drive-in funerals where mourners could watch services on a big screen from the comfort of their vehicles.

Walgreens / CVS

Most Walgreens stores were open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays. The 24 hour stores were drive through only, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Credit Pixabay

There was a senior day every Tuesday for customers 55 and older from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

The stores also waived delivery fees on eligible home deliveries.

CVS store and pharmacy hours vary slightly, so call ahead to be sure.

CVS also waived delivery fees on eligible home deliveries.

Eyeglasses

Dietz-McClean Optical offered curbside service for eyeglass repair and free delivery for all products. It also offered mobile visits. Locations remained open generally from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Property tax rendition extensions

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminded business owners that April 15 was the deadline to file property tax renditions with their county appraisal districts, but extensions were available.

Business owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic may request -- in a written note to the chief appraiser -- an extension of the deadline to May 15. However, some appraisal districts already extended the deadline, so check with your local appraisal district first.

A rendition is a list of the taxable inventory, furniture and fixtures, machinery, equipment and other property owned or managed as of Jan. 1 of each year.

Texas Veterans Land Board

The board offered loan relief to veterans with VLB loans bause of the coronavirus outbreak.

These relief measures included a temporary moratorium on credit reporting, evictions and foreclosures, and a temporary suspension of late payment penalties. Land board officials said current borrowers with loans should contact their loan servicer for assistance and more information.

SeaWorld

SeaWorld San Antonio said it would be closed until further notice. Annual passes, season passes, and memberships would be automatically extended for as long as the temporary closure period lasted.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Six Flags Fiesta Texas suspended operations through at least mid-May.

Guests with prepaid tickets would see those validated through the end of the 2020 season. Season pass holders would be extended for the same number of days the park was closed.

Members will receive an additional month for each month the park is closed and a free membership level upgrade for the rest of the 2020 season.

Organized neighborhood shopping

City officials encouraged organized shopping to thin the crowds at supermarkets. Major grocers were often packed, while smaller grocery stores were overlooked.

City officials said neighborhoods could use Next Door or other social media to put a neighborhood plan together.

A neighborhood plan could look like this: Odd house numbers shop on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, while even house numbers shop on Thursday and Saturdays. Sundays could be used for seniors in a neighborhood to go to the store.

City officials said participants could put a sign with #taketurns in the window and use #taketurns to promote neighborhood shopping.

Texas DMV

Bexar County Tax Assessor Collector Albert Uresti reminded county residents a temporary waiver to obtain initial registrations, renewal registrations and renewal of disability placards was in place.  

This temporary waiver applied to all vehicle owners in all Texas counties.  The waiver would remain in effect until 60 days after the stay at home notice was lifted and regular services resumed.  

Also, there was no requirement for a title application to be submitted within a specific time.

As a result, the delinquent transfer penalty does not apply to any title applications submitted between March 16 and 60 days after the TxDMV provides notice that normal titling services have resumed.

This extension does not apply to seller-financed motor vehicle sales.  In these cases, the tax is reported and paid directly to the Comptroller’s office instead of the Tax Assessor-Collector upon registration.

Contact their office at 210-335-2251 for more information. 

Banks

Security Service Federal Credit Union's Loan Assistance Program offered 90-day extensions on most loans. Extensions were offered on auto, business and personal loans. Mortgage and credit card relief was also available. Details were on the credit union website at ssfcu.org under the COVID-19 Member Relief Programs tab.

Credit Courtesy Weston Urban

Frost Bank offered low interest loans with predictable fees. English speaking customers could call 1-800-513-7678. Spanish speaking customers could call 210-220-4511.

Broadway Banks offered special arrangement payment plans and loan deferrals. Customers in need could call 1-800-531-7650.

Chase Bank reported customers who need assistance with mortgage payments could call 1-800-848-9380. Military members could call 1-877-469-0110. Chase offered loan deferrals up to three months on other consumer loans.

Bank of America said customers could sign up for credit card payment deferrals. It offered clients assistance with mortgages and other loans at its website.

St. Anthony Hotel

The historic hotel temporarily suspended operations and planned to reopen on May 31. Reservations for June 1 or after can be made at thestanthonyhotel.com.

Whole Foods

Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Seniors 60 and older were welcome to shop one hour before regular business hours. Reusable beverage containers would not be refilled, and self-serve areas are closed. Social distancing procedures were in place.

Dollar General

Dollar General devoted the first hour of store operations to senior citizen shoppers. Also, several Dollar General stores closed one hour earlier to better enable employees to restock shelves.

Dry cleaners

Slater & White offered 24 hour drop off service for dry cleaning.

Rose Cleaners and Comet Cleaners were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Comet also offered free home and office delivery and pickup.

Five Star Cleaners was open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

Norma Martinez, Lauren Terrazas and Steve Short contributed to this report.
Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.

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