Some grocery stores are offering 'elderly hours' to help protect older shoppers

CNN's Brianna Keilar speaks to a woman whose actions went viral after she stopped to help a tearful elderly couple grocery shop.

Posted: Mar 17, 2020 8:27 AM


As supermarkets frantically work to restock shelves and calm panicked shoppers, some stores are taking steps to protect older and vulnerable customers who may be at the greatest risk from the novel coronavirus.

The pandemic has killed more than 6,500 people worldwide and officials around the world are taking dramatic steps to limit large groups and encourage "social distancing" in hopes of limiting the spread of the disease.

The Australian grocery chain Woolworths is opening its stores an hour early for its elderly and disabled customers. It's the largest supermarket chain in Australia, with 995 stores.

"The move has been prompted by the unprecedented demand in supermarkets over the past week, which has seen many elderly and vulnerable people in the community missing out on vital items they may need when they shop," the company said in an announcement on its website.

The special hours will start Tuesday morning and run at least until Friday, Woolworths said. Customers must have a government-issued pensioners or senior card to enter the store.

The Coles supermarket chain, also based in Australia, announced that it will also start holding early-morning "community hours" on Wednesday.

And a shopping center in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, announced its Iceland Foods grocery store would begin special hours for older and disabled customers.

What grocery stores in the US are doing

Celebrity chef José Andrés has urged US grocery store chains to follow suit. He has closed his restaurants in the Washington area and will operate some as community kitchens that will sell affordable takeout plates.

"Supermarkets should open early mornings for 2 hours for elderly above 60, to protect them from contact with younger people," Andrés said on Twitter. "Also volunteer system for shopping and delivery should be implemented."

The H-E-B chain, which has more than 400 stores in Texas and Mexico told CNN that it would not be implementing special hours for vulnerable customers.

"Our leadership team studied this option thoroughly and due to recommendations from health officials we have determined this is not the best and safest option for our customers," the company said in a statement. "H-E-B takes care of Texas and we feel asking a group to congregate at our stores in a certain timeframe is not a safe idea."

The company said it is working closely with local food banks and is encouraging people to use their online ordering system.

Most large US grocery chains are offering customers online pickup and delivery services to help limit shoppers' contact with other people.

Many are also closing earlier to give employees more time to restock shelves and to clean and disinfect stores.

Jersey City, New Jersey, announced on Monday that it is working with grocery stores there to provide special access to vulnerable customers -- including pregnant women.

And the mayor of Lorain, Ohio, said that several stores in his city would be making special arrangements for seniors, CNN affiliate WJW reported.

Officials: There's no need to hoard food and supplies

Coronavirus fears have led people all over the world to buy lots of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and other products, and to clear store shelves of produce, fresh meat and anything else they might need.

President Trump had a conference call with grocery store and supply chain executives over the weekend and has urged Americans not to stockpile food and other goods.

"Supply chains in the United States are strong, and it is unnecessary for the American public to hoard daily essentials," according to a statement from White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated the wrong cost to customers for Chef José Andrés takeout meals. The story has been updated to reflect that his community kitchens will sell affordable takeout plates.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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