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Coronavirus: Starbucks halting use of personal, in-store cups in U.S. and Canada

FILE- In this May 29, 2018, file photo, a barista reaches for an empty cup at a Starbucks, commonly referred to as the original Starbucks, in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Starbucks has announced it will stop accepting personal, refillable coffee cups from Canadian and U.S. customers in an effort to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

In an open letter posted on the company’s website Wednesday, executive vice president Rossann Williams said stores in both countries will also stop using “for here” cups.

Customers who ask for those cups or bring in their own mugs will still get a 10-cent discount, but will be given single-use cups instead.

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“We are optimistic this will be a temporary situation,” Williams wrote, while calling the spread of the new coronavirus and COVID-19 from China to countries across the world an “epidemic.”

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“As North America began experiencing heightened concerns, we quickly initiated a regular cadence of communications with our store partners to ensure they have the support they need.”

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Williams said Starbucks stores are also increasing cleaning and sanitizing work in both countries. Large meetings have also been “modified or postponed” across their Canadian and U.S. offices, while business-related air travel is restricted through March 31.

According to the company, the 10-cent discount has been offered to customers who bring in their own cups since 1985. In 2018, Starbucks says 1.3 per cent of customers in the U.S., Canada and Europe received that discount, “saving more than 42 million disposable cups.”

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Eleven people have now died from the new coronavirus in the U.S., with just one of them in California. The rest are in Washington state, centred in the area surrounding Seattle — where Starbucks opened its very first store in 1971.

The state is home to 21 other cases, with several other people being monitored at a long-term care facility in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle.

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Canada has so far recorded 34 cases of the virus, with the latest being announced in B.C. on Wednesday. That case — the province’s 13th — is in critical condition.

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