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Supermarkets Add 'Senior Hours' For Vulnerable Shoppers

Many supermarkets are setting special designated hours when only seniors and others most vulnerable to the coronavirus are invited to shop.
Many supermarkets are setting special designated hours when only seniors and others most vulnerable to the coronavirus are invited to shop.

Special hours for seniors to shop are just one of the ways grocery stores across the U.S. are adjusting their operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Supermarkets are restricting their opening hours to give workers time for cleaning and restocking. They're also limiting how many items people are allowed to buy. And they're adding special designated hours when only seniors and others most vulnerable to the coronavirus are invited to shop.

Health experts are still recommending against visiting public places unless absolutely necessary. Federal officials advise against gatherings of 10 or more people. None of the retailers specified plans to restrict the number of visitors to their stores.

Below are the latest changes at some of the most prominent supermarket chains.

Target

All Target stores will reserve the first hour of shopping on Wednesdays for "vulnerable guests — including elderly and those with underlying health concerns." The company is encouraging others to shop outside of that time.

The retailer is also cutting its opening hours, closing all stores at 9 p.m. local time and is enforcing limits on how many items of particularly high-demand products one shopper can buy.

Dollar General

The retailer is " strongly encouraging" shoppers who are not considered high-risk to avoid visiting stores during the first hour of opening, reserving that time for seniors. Dollar General also will close all stores an hour early every day for cleaning, restocking and to give workers a bit of a break.

Walmart

The largest U.S. retailer is adding a "senior hour" to every Tuesday from March 24 to April 28. This applies to customers 60 and older, who will have exclusive access to Walmart stores and pharmacies for an hour before official opening time, which in many cases will mean 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Walmart says it's temporarily closing Auto Care Centers and imposing per-person restrictions on paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.

Stop & Shop

The stores are opening early to allow people over 60 and with weakened immune systems to shop from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. The supermarkets will have shorter hours, opening from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The company is also limiting per-person purchases of some cleaning and sanitizing products, encouraging shoppers to "buy just what you need."

Safeway, Albertsons

The supermarkets owned by Albertsons plan to reserve every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. for vulnerable shoppers, including seniors, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

The company is also "asking customers to respect quantity limits of select, high-demand items (like hand sanitizers and household cleaners) to help ensure more of our neighbors can find the products they need."

Whole Foods

Amazon's retail chain is offering the hour before each store's official opening time for people 60 and older. Whole Foods also says its locations will close to shoppers "up to two hours early," though they will remain open for pickup and Amazon Prime delivery.

Other stores

Many retailers and malls also are restricting their hours or temporarily closing. Trade publication Retail Dive is keeping a handy running list here.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.