Some retailers are setting aside time for their most vulnerable customers to shop.
Acknowledging that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19, or the coronavirus, a growing number of stores are dedicating time or opening earlier for senior shoppers and other at-risk groups.
Because of panic shopping, which has left store shelves empty, at-risk groups including seniors have had difficulty getting supplies.
Albertsons, which has 2,200-plus stores under banners including Safeway, Acme and Vons, says it is reserving two hours every Tuesday and Thursday morning for vulnerable shoppers, including senior citizens, pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems "who have been advised to avoid leaving home as much as possible."
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Starting Wednesday, all Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. and Canada will let customers who are 60 and older shop one hour before opening to the public. The company, which is owned by Amazon, has approximately 500 stores throughout the U.K., Canada, and in 42 U.S. states.
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"We are setting aside this time to help these customers, who national health authorities have identified as among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, feel more comfortable shopping our stores and helping to ensure they are able to get the items they need in a less crowded environment," Whole Foods Market said in a statement.
Target is introducing a weekly hour for elderly and vulnerable shoppers to shop starting Wednesday, the same day it will cut hours at its more than 1,800 stores nationwide
Dollar General designated the first hour its more than 16,000 stores in 44 states are open daily to senior shoppers.
Several small and regional grocery store chains also are looking to help, though most retailers are not requiring identification or proof of age and are only "encouraging" other shoppers to plan around these windows.
Some experts say they are concerned about having a large number of seniors congregate together. Alysa Krain, an infectious disease doctor who specializes in geriatric medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, told the Washington Post that the special hours make her nervous.
"It was a good idea in general, but it's a little bit dangerous if it's not controlled," Krain told the Post.
Stores helping elderly, vulnerable
Albertsons: From 7 to 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, the company is reserving time for "those vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, unless otherwise locally mandated." Find the full list of Albertsons companies stores here.
Bashas' Supermarkets: The company's stores including Bashas', Food City and AJ's grocery stores will open from 5 to 6 a.m. Wednesdays for anyone age 65 and older, the Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network reported. The hour for Bashas' reservation stores is from 6 to 7 a.m. Shoppers will be required to show valid identification at the store. If a caretaker is needed, one can shop with the senior but cannot shop for themselves.
Dollar General: The Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based discount chain announced it is dedicating the first hour in its more than 16,000 stores in 44 states to help senior shoppers "avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods." The retailer said said in a tweet that it wasn't "qualifying a specific age" for the set-aside time.
Fareway Meat & Grocery: Starting Wednesday and until further notice, stores will open to shoppers 65 and older, expecting mothers and those with "increased susceptibility to serious illness" from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Stores will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the general public.
Fresh Market: The grocer, which has 159 stores in 22 states, is reserving the first hour stores open, from 8 to 9 a.m. for "seniors and those most at risk" Monday through Friday.
Food Town: The Texas-based retailer says to "help support the shopping needs of the elderly in our community," stores will open from 7 to 8 a.m. to allow those ages 65 and older to shop in a less crowded environment. Access to the store during the hour will require a government-issued state ID or Texas drivers license.
Jersey City: In Jersey City, New Jersey, grocery stores will allocate two hours every morning, from 9 to 11, specifically for elderly, disabled and pregnant shoppers, Mayor Steven Fulop said. The rule started Tuesday and applies to grocery stores that have three or more cash registers.
Mother's Markets: The California-based company is starting "Safe Shop Wednesdays" and is opening from 6 to 7 a.m. every Wednesday for "elderly, disabled, those with compromised immune systems, chemo patients, etc." It's also offering free home delivery for the high-risk groups with promo code FREE4SENIORS.
Northgate González Market: The Southern California Latino market has started a special hour of shopping for the disabled and seniors 65 and older from 7 to 8 a.m. at its 41 locations.
Safeway: From 7 to 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, the company is reserving time for "those vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, unless otherwise locally mandated."
Schnucks: Starting Wednesday and continuing indefinitely, Schnucks is reserving the first hour of each day - from 6 to 7 a.m. - for shopping by seniors aged 60 and above, and for those who are most at risk of COVID-19, the grocer announced.
Sedano's Supermarkets: Starting Thursday, the Florida-based chain's 35 locations will open from 7 to 8 a.m. for seniors 65 and older and "the immunocompromised members of our communities," the company said.
Smith's Food & Drug Stores: Starting Wednesday, Smith's will dedicate the first hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 to 8 a.m., "solely to the shopping needs of senior citizens until further notice," the company wrote in a Facebook post.
Stop & Shop: Starting Thursday, the retailer, which has more than 400 stores throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, will give shoppers 60 and older 90 minutes to shop each morning from 6 to 7:30 a.m., according to the Asbury Park Press, part of the USA TODAY Network. Stop & Shop said the dedicated time better enables social distancing and there would be a designated entrance for seniors.
Target: Starting Wednesday, the retailer will "reserve the first hour of shopping each Wednesday at stores nationwide for vulnerable guests," Target said, adding it is "encouraging other guests to plan their shopping trips around this timeframe."
Whole Foods Market: Starting Wednesday, all Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. and Canada will let customers who are 60 and older shop one hour before opening to the public.
Retailers helping seniors: Share more examples with USA TODAY
Do you know of additional businesses working with seniors not listed above? If you do, fill out the form below or through this link for possible inclusion in USA TODAY's continuing coverage.
This story will be updated.
Contributing: David P. Willis, Asbury Park Press; Anthony Zurita, NorthJersey.com; Alyssa Stoney, Arizona Republic; Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus senior shopping: Stores introduce 'senior-only' time