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Senior shopping hours, earlier closing times: How businesses are navigating COVID-19

woman hand hold supermarket shopping cart with abstract blur organic fresh fruits and vegetable on shelves in grocery store defocused bokeh light background

Closures, online grocery shopping and elderly-only shopping hours are just some of the ways that businesses are trying to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board will be temporarily closing 78 ABC stores across the state in an effort to protect customers and employees from the coronavirus.

The stores that will be closing will stop operations after March 17. 

Other limitations being implemented at ABC stores will include:

  • Starting Wednesday, March 18, there will be a limit of five customers inside a store at one time.
  • Customers will not be allowed to pull their own product. Employees will ask customers for their order, retrieve the product and bring the item to the counter for check out.
  • Customers are asked to pay with a credit card, if possible. If cash must be used, customers should place their money on the counter and workers will return their change in the same way to avoid hand contact.
  • Employees will be required to wear gloves. Masks are optional.

Dollar General announced yesterday that the first hour of operations each day will be dedicated solely for the shopping needs of senior customers, allowing them to avoid larger crowds and lessen the chances of infection. No specific age limit was set. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people over the age of 60 are most vulnerable to coronavirus.

The discount-chain, which has over 100 locations in Alabama, also asked other customers to plan their shopping trips around this time window “to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour that stores are open.” The stores will also close one hour earlier to allow employees to clean and restock store shelves.

Publix and Kroger have also changed their operating hours. Publix is closing its stores at 8 p.m. Kroger stores will open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.

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Walmart also changed operating hours earlier this week in response to coronavirus.

The retail chain’s 24-hour stores and Neighborhood Markets will operate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice. The change will ensure “associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing.”

Walmart offers an online alternative, the Walmart Grocery app, where customers can order their groceries online, then have their purchases brought out to their car outside of the store to help avoid human contact.

According to TechCrunch, the Walmart Grocery app saw nearly 54,000 downloads in one day in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis. Other grocery delivery services have seen a similar surge in downloads. 

Governor Kay Ivey tweeted yesterday to encourage residents to remain calm as grocers are adapting to new policies to keep the public safe.

“As well all adapt to taking precautions for #Coronavirus, I want to remind our citizens that grocery stores aren’t shutting down. Let’s all be responsible & only get what is needed. Grocers are doing their best to restock, but we mustn’t let fear cause a panic.”

The coronavirus outbreak has also caused a surge in online purchases as more people try to avoid crowded stores. 

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To keep up with demand, Amazon announced an additional 100,000 new full-time and part-time positions have been opened in fulfillment centers and the company’s delivery network.

“Getting a priority item to your doorstep is vital as communities practice social-distancing, particularly for the elderly and others with underlying health issues,” a blog post from Amazon said. We are seeing a significant increase in demand, which means our labor needs are unprecedented for this time of year.”

Restrictions have also been placed on restaurants and bars in six counties in Alabama to prevent the spread of the disease.


Written By

Jessa Reid Bolling is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter and graduate of The University of Alabama with a B.A. in journalism and political science.



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