The coronavirus pandemic has taken the lives of more than 6,500 people worldwide, and officials around the world are taking dramatic steps to restrict large groups and encourage “social distancing” in the hope of limiting the spread of the disease.
Cnn.com’s article “Some grocery stores are offering ‘elderly hours’ to help protect older shoppers” reports that celebrity chef José Andrés has asked U.S. grocery store chains to follow the lead taken by European and Australian chains. Andrés 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. “A volunteer system for shopping and delivery should also be implemented.”
However, 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.”
H-E-B said it is working closely with local food banks and is encouraging people to use their online ordering system.
However, most large American 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, recently announced that it is working with grocery stores there to provide special access to vulnerable customers — including pregnant women. The mayor of Lorain, Ohio, said that several stores in his city would be making special arrangements for the elderly.
Coronavirus fears have caused people all over the world to buy out store supplies of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and other products. They’re also clearing out store shelves of produce, fresh meat and anything else they think they might need. President Trump had a conference call with grocery store and supply chain execs over the weekend and has asked 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.
Reference: cnn.com (March 17, 2020) “Some grocery stores are offering ‘elderly hours’ to help protect older shoppers”