Stores change hours, dedicate shopping time for elderly amid COVID-19 pandemic

Publix, Winn-Dixie, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods and more adjust hours for cleaning, restocking

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite calls from the president not to panic or hoard, high demand items like soap, paper towels and some food items continue to fly off the shelves at grocery stores amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"You don't have to buy so much. Take it easy. Just relax,” President Donald Trump said during a news conference. “You're doing great; it all will pass."

Until it does, Publix, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods and other stores are adjusting their hours to give employees extra time to restock shelves and sanitize.

Publix will now open at 8 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. like shoppers are used to. The grocery stores will close at 8 p.m.

Walmart is also scaling back its hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Starting Wednesday, all Target stores will close by 9 p.m. and will dedicate an hour every Wednesday morning to those shoppers who are most vulnerable, including the elderly and those with underlying health concerns.

In a statement, the retailer said in part: “Families are counting on Target for critical supplies during this challenging time, and we’ll continue to do all that we can to keep our stores open. For weeks, we’ve been responding to the impact of the coronavirus by taking care of our team, rigorously cleaning our stores and helping our guests find the food, medicine and other essentials they need for themselves and their families.”

Winn-Dixie parent company Southeastern Grocers, which also owns Harveys stores, is also making changes amid the pandemic.

All local Winn-Dixie and Harveys stores will close at 8 p.m. starting Friday. Stores will still close Thursday at 9 p.m.

A designated shopping hour will also be dedicated to seniors and high-risk customers from 8-9 a.m., Monday through Friday, in all stores, and all pharmacy locations will open at 8 a.m. on weekdays to provide prescription refills, influenza and pneumonia vaccines and customer counseling.

The Southeastern Grocers Gives Foundation will donate $250,000 to Feeding America to help provide support to those facing food insecurity, and Southeastern Grocers’ grocery stores will be hiring individuals who have been affected by restricted working hours and layoffs. For more information, go to www.segrocers.com/careers.

Laurie Williams doesn’t have to think twice when making a trip to the grocery store, but that’s not the case for her elderly mom, who lives in St. Petersburg.

“I wish I could go down there, but I just can’t right now. I shouldn’t be traveling,” Williams said.

Williams is relying on stores making changes to help.

Dollar General is another store that is dedicating time to those who are most vulnerable and many of these stores are limiting items per shopper because of the high demand.

The Fresh Market also announced the first hour of business, Monday through Friday, will be designated for the shopping needs of senior customers, and those who are most at risk to COVID-19.

Whole Foods announced similar changes. The store will close two hours early to give employees more time to restock and sanitize. Whole Foods also said it will invite customers over 60 years old to begin shopping one hour before the store opens to the general public.

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