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Business Fallout: Walmart limits hours, airlines cut flying

WASHINGTON (AP) — A growing list of retailers are closing stores or limiting their operating hours as customers remain home in an effort to slow the spread of the virus outbreak. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and private employer, said late Saturday it is limiting hours to ensure stores can keep sought-after items such as hand sanitizer in stock.

Beginning Sunday, more than 4,700 Walmart and Neighborhood Market locations in the U.S. will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 pm. until further notice. Most super center stores are typically open 24 hours while some Neighborhood stores are as well.

“I don’t think any of us have been through an experience like this, and we continue to be amazed at what people, whether in the stores or in the supply chain, are doing to make sure customers have what they need,” Dacona Smith, chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Other retailers are following Apple and closing their stores, including Urban Outfitters, Everlane and Patagonia. “This is a critical moment in the world,” Everlane posted on its website. “With the situation evolving very quickly, we must do our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19”. Everlane says it will keep its online operations open, while Patagonia is closing down both its website and stores.

INFECTED EMPLOYEES: Supermarket chain Kroger said two of its employees have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and are recovering. One was employed at the King Soopers grocery chain in Colorado, and the other at Fred Meyer, a grocery chain in Washington state. Both are subsidiaries of Kroger's.

The company also said it has enacted an emergency leave policy that allows for paid time off for workers diagnosed with the coronavirus and those placed under a mandatory quarantine by a doctor or public health authority.

AMERICAN PULLS BACK: American Airlines said late Saturday that it is suspending about 75% of its long-haul international flights, starting Monday and lasting through May 6, in response to “decreased demand" and U.S. government travel restrictions. The airline did not announce any layoffs but is grounding about 135 planes.

It will continue to fly three routes: One daily flight from Dallas to London, a daily flight from Miami to London, and three per week from Dallas to Tokyo. Short-haul flights to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America will continue.

Appearing on ABC's “This Week” Sunday morning, Mnuchin called the impact on the airline industry “an unprecedented situation,” but that statement applies to other parts of the travel industry as well. The cruise industry has agreed with the Trump administration to suspend all cruises out of the U.S. for 30 days.

Mnuchin indicated that one of the next steps for the federal government is to provide assistance to travel-related industries. MORE FLIGHTS CANCELLED: Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) said it was temporarily halting most of its flights starting Monday due to travel restrictions and the “non-existent demand” for air travel. The company said it will resume flights when “there are yet again conditions to conduct commercial aviation." SAS said it will have to temporarily lay off about 10,000 employees, or about 90% of its workforce.

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