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Starbucks, citing coronavirus outbreak, opts for ‘to go’ model, closes some cafes

Starbucks is moving to a “to-go” model for all its stores in the U.S. and Canada for at least two weeks, and closing other stories, over concerns about the new coronavirus.

“As we all know, the situation with COVID-19 is extremely dynamic and we will continue to review the facts and science and make the proactive decisions necessary to protect our partners, customers and communities,” Rossann Williams, the executive vice president and president of U.S. company-operated business and Canada for Starbucks, wrote in a letter to all U.S. partners.

The Seattle-based coffee giant announced Sunday it’s closing seating in its cafes and patio areas, but customers can still order at the counter, at drive-throughs or on the Starbucks app.

The company also will close stores temporarily in what it called “high social-gathering locations,” such as malls and university campuses, and will close stores or reduce hours in areas seeing clusters of COVID-19 cases, such as Seattle and New York, executives said.

Williams continued in the letter, “Every community’s needs are incredibly different. We want to make sure we play a constructive role by taking responsible actions, in partnership with the CDC and local public health authorities, so we can continue to do what’s right for our partners and customers.”

The U.S. has seen at least 61 deaths and over 2,900 infections.

The Seattle roaster has had approximately 15,000 U.S. stores and 1,600 Canadian stores. Most have been owned by the company but some — including locations in retail stores and airports — have been run by licensees.

Starbucks already had increased the pace of sanitizing stores and put into place a temporary ban on use of personal cups or in-store mugs and glassware.

Employees can use up to 14 days of catastrophe pay in addition to paid sick leave, vacation time and personal days, executives said. They also asked employees showing symptoms to stay home.