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Three Bears Alaska workers in Chugiak weigh in on vaccine rollout

A cashier at Three Bears Alaska in Chugiak sanitizing her station.
A cashier at Three Bears Alaska in Chugiak sanitizing her station.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 7:10 AM AKST
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CHUGIAK, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s been a long time since the pandemic really got started up here, and it feels like even longer. The entire time, grocery store workers have continued to work in their public-facing positions. With the essential worker designation, they will be some of the first who will be able to get vaccinated after people like front line health care workers and the elderly.

With their vaccination tier approaching, grocery store workers at Three Bears Alaska in Chugiak have mixed feelings about the vaccine. Overall, workers there feel a sense of relief that they’ll be eligible soon, but not necessarily because they’re worried about getting sick.

Jeff Forster is the manager at the Chugiak location. In the beginning, before the summer when COVID-19 was still very new, he said there was a lot of worry that the employees were so close to the public.

“No one really knew what was going on,” Forster said. “So there was quite a few people worried. Quite a few people quit.”

But that was almost a year ago. Now, Forster said it’s things like all the mandates, precautions and rules that are stressing out the workers these days.

Those feelings were echoed by the head of the freeze and chill department, Gabriel Perry. He added that it’s been a lot of work keeping food on the shelves while supply lines are disrupted by distributors during the pandemic.

Forster, as well as Three Bears Alaska Marketing Director Jim Kolb, said people in the company have gotten sick with COVID-19, but “not that many.”

Even though they feel the rules aren’t fun to follow, they still do because they know the rules are made in the name of public safety.

“I definitely understand other people’s concerns,” Perry said. “Especially with whatever health problems that they might have or living around other people who may or may not have such health problems.”

Forster said he hopes the vaccine works, Perry said he’s not jumping up to get in line — even when their tier is up, and Kolb said that any vaccine received by a Three Bears employee will be completely up to them.

“It’s one of those things where we’re happy that it’s going to be available to our employees and allow them to stay safe,” Kolb said, “And you know, obviously totally voluntary on whether they want to get it or not, but the fact that they have the option to — sooner than later — is definitely a plus. It keeps them safe, keeps their families safe and our doors open.”

The workers at Three Bears Chugiak overall said they are relieved that the vaccine is coming, but mostly because it means they’ll be closer to a normal work life.

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