With concerns of COVID-19 and escalating cases in Washington state many stores are making changes to their staff routines and providing special hours for the most vulnerable populations.
Most grocery stores in the area have chosen specific hours each week to provide to seniors, immuno-compromised, recently pregnant or other at-risk individuals.
"We have set aside dedicated shopping hours for senior citizens and other at-risk populations, such as pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems," said Tairsa Worman, public affairs manager for Safeway and Albertsons.
The vulnerable shopping hours for those stores is Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. The pharmacy will open at 7 a.m. on those days as well.
For Target, the first hour of shopping every Tuesday and Wednesday will be for those 65 and older, pregnant women and those defined by the CDC as at-risk.
"During the dedicated hours, we’ll have team members outside of our stores before opening, reminding guests to practice social distancing both in line and when entering the store," said Jake Anderson, a communications staff member for Target. CVS pharmacies at Target will also be open at that time.
More hours for vulnerable populations are available at various stories. Those include Tuesdays at Walmart from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays at Costco from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Tuesday and Thursdays at WinCo Foods from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays at Haggen from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at Fred Meyer from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and Monday through Friday at Dollar Tree from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Be sure to double check those with stores to ensure you have the most current information.
Stores in the local area also taking increased precautions in cleaning for their customers and staff members.
"We have implemented several steps to ensure the safety of the people who shop in and work in our stores," said Worman.
She said Safeway and Albertsons plan to install Plexiglas in all checkout lanes in all stores over the next two weeks to provide a barrier between customers and cashiers.
"We’ve taken enhanced measures to clean and disinfect all departments, restrooms and other high-touch points of the store throughout the day, as well as a deep cleanse at the end of each business day," said Worman.
Anderson said Target is also implementing enhanced cleaning protocols.
"We’re taking guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends regular cleaning as one of the most important preventive measures," he said.
A staff member at each store is assigned to the entrance and checkout lanes are being cleaned after each customer.
Some stores have adjusted their hours to give time for staff members to restock shelves and clean.
"We have placed signage in the stores to remind our customers to practice social distancing and remain six feet — essentially two shopping carts — apart," said Worman.
The CDC is recommending six feet as that is the general distance droplets released from coughs can travel.
"The company is installing designated waiting points through floor markers positioned throughout the store, especially at check stands and stations where people most often congregate," said Worman.
With the COVID-19 shutdown in the news, many residents are purchasing a large amount of in-demand items.
"We’re also asking customers to continue to respect quantity limits of select, high-demand items like hand sanitizers, household cleaners, as well as toilet paper and paper towels," said Worman.
"We’re refilling high-demand products as quickly as we can through our robust and sophisticated supply chain. If the product you’re looking for isn’t in the store today, there’s a good chance it will be there the next day or the day after," she said.
Worman added that nearly all Safeway and Albertsons are hiring at the moment.
"We understand that this crisis has left many people suffering from layoffs or low hours and we have immediate openings," she said.
Finally, she wanted to thank the workers who are under increased burdens right now.
"We cannot express enough gratitude for our employees' dedication and commitment during this unprecedented time as they work to support their neighbors and provide essential service to communities here in Washington State and across the country," she said. "The ‘thank you’s’ they are receiving from customers mean so much."