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Visionworks Reopening Locations for Essential Care, Furloughing Part of Workforce

Up to 60% of its stores could open their doors in coming weeks.

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SAN ANTONIO, TX – Visionworks announced that it would begin reopening locations starting April 6 to serve increased needs for essential and emergency eyecare, but would not provide routine eyecare. Up to 60 percent of Visionworks locations could reopen in the coming weeks, according to a press release.

As healthcare providers, optometrists were recently included as essential critical infrastructure workers as part of guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

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“Our top priority is the health and safety of our associates, doctors, and the patients we serve, and we have taken all necessary measures to ensure their well-being,” said Pete Bridgman, president of Visionworks. “We continue to see rising needs for essential eye care, and by reopening we can ensure those needs are safely met and optometrists can help reduce the number of patients seeking eye care from overwhelmed emergency rooms and hospitals during COVID-19.”

As not all Visionworks locations are reopening, the organization, part of Rancho Cordova, CA-based VSP Global, also announced it will reduce its workforce through employee furloughs for the next 60 days. Furloughed employees will retain their benefits, with Visionworks paying the employee portion of premiums during this time. Additionally, impacted employees will receive assistance from Visionworks in expediting unemployment claims to help them access benefits.

Visionworks, which has about 8,000 employees, did not say how much of its workforce would be furloughed. It is the sixth-largest optical chain in the U.S., with more than 700 locations in nearly 40 states and the District of Columbia.

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“Like so many other organizations, we continue to face significant economic challenges and impact from COVID-19,” added Bridgman. “We understand what an incredibly painful decision this is. Ultimately, it was necessary to ensure the viability of our operations and our ability to weather this difficult economic storm, while also allowing our doctors to continue providing essential eye care and relieve demand on emergency rooms at this critical time. It is our goal to welcome back as many of our impacted Visionworks family as possible in the months ahead.”

Following the temporary closure of its locations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Visionworks activated a telehealth offering to connect patients and doctors. To date, nearly 3,500 patients – from first responders to nurses and others in need of care – have utilized the offering. Through the free video or phone consultation, doctors evaluate how best to meet urgent patient eyecare needs.

Stores that reopen will have enhanced safety protocols, including personal protective equipment for employees.

The complany closed its locations on March 21. It initially planned to reopen on April 3.

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