Stores reserve time for seniors, those at high risk for coronavirus

Published: Mar. 18, 2020 at 3:25 PM EDT
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People across the country are being told to keep their distance from each other to slow the spread of coronavirus. Americans can still go grocery shopping, but busy stores present a problem for seniors and others at high risk. Now, some businesses are offering a solution.

At the Northgate Gonzalez Market in Los Angeles, some shoppers can roll in at 7 a.m. for a bit of VIP treatment. Everyone shopping at that hour is a senior or considered high risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. For that reason, the Northgate Market is reserving its first hour of operation for them only.

"We realized that hey, this is the right thing to do, we'll staff up, we'll do what we need to do to keep people safe," said Oscar Gonzalez, Northgate's co-president.

The store is cleaned and stocked overnight, giving seniors a chance to get what they need.

"I wouldn't be out here unless I had to. Because they say to stay indoors, but since I'm the caregiver for the disabled people at home, I'm the only driver," shopper Frances Calhoun said.

The store only allows in about 50 customers at a time to help with social distancing. And many businesses around the country are doing something similar. Whole Foods is allowing shoppers over 60 in one hour before opening to the general public. Dollar General is also reserving its first hour for seniors. And Target is setting aside time for high-risk customers on Wednesday mornings.

Zanotto's in San Jose, California, had a line down the block with people waiting to shop.

"We're trying to be as nice as possible but the great thing is our community really understands that these are the people we need to take care of," said Khadija Zanotto, the store's vice president of marketing.

They're opening early for seniors who are grateful for the special consideration.

"Not everybody is as capable as the younger people. This is a good thing," shopper Gordon Patnude said.

"I actually think that's a great thing for people because that is the most vulnerable demographic," shopper Ana Maria Russo said.

Zanotto's and other stores say they will continue to make these accommodations for the foreseeable future.

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