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COVID-19 Heroes: Exchange, commissary rise to challenge

Angelo Manlangit, a stock room sorter, unpacks pallets in the commissary warehouse on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 24, 2020. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the commissary receives pallets daily and restocks the shelves to replenish items for the morning rush. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

Angelo Manlangit, a stock room sorter, unpacks pallets in the commissary warehouse on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 24, 2020. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the commissary receives pallets daily and restocks the shelves to replenish items for the morning rush. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

Maria Paddock, a Defense Exchange Agency produce store worker, restocks food in the commissary on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 24, 2020. The need to restock items throughout the day has increased as customers buy larger quantities of items during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

Maria Paddock, a Defense Commissary Agency produce store worker, restocks food in the commissary on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 24, 2020. The need to restock items throughout the day has increased as customers buy larger quantities of items during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

Rich Vega, stockroom manager, restocks toilet paper in the Exchange on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 25, 2020. The Exchange and commissary have prioritized restocking high-demand items, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, which sell out quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

Rich Vega, stockroom manager, restocks toilet paper in the Exchange on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 25, 2020. The Exchange and commissary have prioritized restocking high-demand items, which sell out quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

Josephine Rice, a cashier, packs a customer’s items at the Exchange on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 24, 2020. The Exchange staff cleans and sanitizes work areas more frequently to protect customers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

Josephine Rice, a cashier, packs a customer’s items at the Exchange on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 24, 2020. The Exchange staff cleans and sanitizes work areas more frequently to protect customers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

Amelia Camacho, a Defense Commissary Agency cashier, scans items at the commissary on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 24, 2020. Commissary workers continue to serve customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic while using personal protective equipment, such as gloves and face masks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

Amelia Camacho, a Defense Commissary Agency cashier, scans items at the commissary on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 24, 2020. Commissary workers continue to serve customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic while using personal protective equipment, such as gloves and face masks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Gelardo)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, store workers have become even more vital to everyday life.

Since the virus hit the local area mid-March, more than 500 Nellis Exchange and Commissary employees are working long hours to unload merchandise and stock shelves to support 4,000 customers per day.

“The first week, we took steps to clean and sanitize work areas more often for the safety of our customers and employees,” said Matt Beatty, Nellis Exchange general manager. “We’ve also closed the dining rooms in our food operations to ensure social distancing measures are in place to prevent the spread of the virus.”

As demand for essential items increased across the Las Vegas Valley, the Exchange and commissary also saw an influx of authorized beneficiaries from off base.

To meet the increase in demand and support social distancing through crowd control, the commissary staff extended their hours to stock shelves and man cash registers.

“Our sales doubled in the commissary the first day, and we had lines like we had never seen,” said Richard Means, Nellis Commissary store director.

As demand grew, the staff evaluated the community’s needs and adjusted hours of operation to support military members and their families.

“We have tried to do our best at working with the base command to let in our active-duty, Guard, Reserve and family members before we let in other authorized patrons,” said Means. “This was due to the fact that when they got off work, there was not much left for them to purchase.”

Currently, the commissary has 8 to 8:30 a.m. daily reserved for these patrons, before opening the doors to all other eligible shoppers from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The Exchange will continue to operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

As the Nellis Exchange and Commissary continue to support the complex base community, patrons are encouraged to maintain social distancing while shopping, limit the number of high-demand items to family needs and remember those who are working extra hours to keep shelves stocked.

For more information on Nellis AFB’s COVID-19 response, visit nellis.af.mil/COVID-19/ or follow the Nellis AFB Facebook page @NellisAFB.

Editor's Note: This is the first installment in a five-part series highlighting Nellis heroes sustaining operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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