| Danielle Eaton
GREATER?SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect one of the community’s most vulnerable populations, many grocery stores across the country are allowing those 60-years-old and up early access to the store.
Stop and Shop External Communications Manager Maria Fruci told Reminder Publishing the decision was made after local health and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials “reported that members of the population who are age 60 and older are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.”
While Stop and Shop modified its regular hours for all other customers to 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., those who are 60 or older will have exclusive access to the shop from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. The new hours went into effect on March 16. Fruci said, “The special hours will allow a less crowded shopping environment, which better enables better social distancing.”
She explained this would allow for customers of that particular population “to feel safe and shop with confidence knowing they are in-store prior to any other customers entering.”
Fruci said while “those who are immunocompromised can certainly shop during those hours as well,” they hope other shoppers respect the special hours. “We just ask that our customers respect this so we can create an environment in which these groups are able to practice social distancing,” she said. “We’re taking this very seriously – and the intent is to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
In addition to the special hours stop and shop employees are frequently disinfecting checkout areas and self-service locations, including belts and pin pads at each register. Stop and Shop’s self-services such as the olive bar, wing bar, salad bar, hot bar, and pick-your-own are also currently not in service. Instead, in their place, Fruci said the store will be offering packaged items. This also applies to baking items and self-serve nuts.
Fruci said food sampling, in-store events and community solicitations have been suspended due to concerns surrounding the spread of coronavirus as well.
Furthermore when customers enter the store, no matter the hour, they will be able to get disinfecting wipes to clean carts, baskets and the store’s ScanIt! devices before using them. Fruci said in addition to providing customers with disinfecting wipes, employees are also washing their hands more frequently and using hand sanitizer on a regular basis.
Big Y also announced that effective March 19 they would only allow customers 60-years-old and older, or those who are immunocompromised, in their stores from the hours of 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Representatives of Big Y did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
The following stores also have announced dedicated hours to vulnerable and elderly populations:
•Target, first hour of shopping on Wednesdays
•Dollar General, first hour of shopping everyday
•Whole Foods, first hour of shopping everyday