As senior citizens deal with anxiety about the coronavirus, grocery store chains and other retailers have come up with a way to ease their fears: shopping times reserved exclusively for them.
Target, Whole Foods, Walmart and Dollar General began dedicating early morning shopping times for older customers this week. The theory is that allowing seniors to shop among smaller crowds could reduce their chances of acquiring the virus and give them first crack at buying hand sanitizer and other products that have been hard to find because of panic shopping.
Target is dedicating an hour each week for the elderly and those with underlying health concerns – who are the most most vulnerable to COVID-19 – to shop.
Target’s more than 1,800 stores nationwide will “reserve the first hour of shopping each Wednesday at stores nationwide for vulnerable guests,” the company said, adding it is “encouraging other guests to plan their shopping trips around this timeframe.”
Walmart will be offering special shopping hours for seniors. From March 24 through April 28, shoppers 60 and older will be able to enter the store one hour before it opens to all customers. Walmart’s pharmacies and vision centers will also be open to older customers, who are considered among the most vulnerable to the virus, during that time.
It’s an hour-long shopping event for seniors every Tuesday for people 60 and older.
All Whole Foods stores in the U.S. and Canada will allow customers 60 and older to shop before opening to the general public. For example, if a store opens at 9 a.m., seniors can start shopping at 8 a.m.
In a message from its corporate offices, Dollar General “is strongly encouraging that the first hour of operations each day be dedicated solely for the shopping needs of senior customers, who are one of the groups most vulnerable to the COVID-19 coronavirus.”
William Petri, a professor in the University of Virginia’s Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, said setting aside dedicated times for seniors to shop makes sense.
Petri said health officials have found that many people who are infected don’t have symptoms right away but are still infectious.
“That’s an even better reason to try to isolate those who are most vulnerable, like the elderly, from younger people through dedicated shopping hours,” Petri said.
Better yet, Petri said, would be for seniors to get groceries delivered to their homes.
As of Friday, Virginia has 114 positive cases of coronavirus. James City County, which is seeing the brunt of the cases, has 19; Williamsburg has four; York County three and one in Newport News.
The two coronavirus-related deaths in the state were in the Peninsula.
The outbreak has caused more than 10,000 deaths out of nearly 245,000 cases worldwide.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.