Multiple stores in the Chicago area are offering up special hours for elderly shoppers to get what they need without subjecting themselves to large crowds amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Elgin Fresh Market announced Monday that it would reserve the hours of 8-9 a.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday "exclusively for the shopping needs of senior citizens that are 65 years of age and older, and those with physical handicaps."
"The recent extraordinary events have impacted our entire community," the market wrote on Facebook. "However, it has come to our attention that senior citizens and those with physical handicaps have found it especially difficult to access basic grocery and food services due to the long lines and crowded conditions."
The market said the special hours would be in effect until further notice and identification would be required as proof of age.
"We ask all our customers to be patient and understanding in our efforts to provide meaningful access to groceries for everyone in our community," their message read.
Whole Foods and Target both announced Tuesday that they would be adjusting their hours as well.
Whole Foods said all of its locations would open one hour early to service customers who are 60 and older.
"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," the chain said in a statement.
The stores will also closed two hours early to give staff time to restock, sanitize and rest.
Target said in a statement that on Wednesdays, its stores would reserve the first hour after they've opened for vulnerable customers, like senior citizens and people with underlying health issues.
Albertsons Companies -- the parent company for stores like ACME, Safeway and Jewel Osco -- made a similar announcement earlier Tuesday.
Albertsons Companies said in a press release that its more than 2,200 nationwide stores will reserve every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. for senior citizens, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals and other at-risk groups to shop.
Beginning Friday, Mariano's said its 44 stores will designate the hours of 6-8 a.m. for "those who are most at risk of COVID-19." The hours will be in effect seven days a week until further notice, the company said.
From March 24 through April 28, Walmart stores will open one hour early every Tuesday to offer an hour-long senior shopping event for customers aged 60 and older.
Dollar General also announced that, beginning Tuesday, its first hour of operations will be "dedicated to our senior shoppers."
" In keeping with the Company’s mission of Serving Others, Dollar General wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need and want at the beginning of each day to avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods," the company said in a statement. " Other customers are encouraged to plan their shopping trips around this window of time to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour that stores are open."
The Village of Willowbrook previously wrote on Facebook that at the request of its mayor, the suburb's local Whole Foods store "has agreed to a pilot program, which will open its store exclusively to senior (60 and great) and people with disabilities from 7:30-8 a.m. before normal hours of operation start up."
The hours will be in effect Wednesday.
Meanwhile, grocery giant Jewel-Osco wants to hire thousands of workers as demand for food and supplies picks up over coronavirus fears.
The company says it has more than 3,000 immediate job openings. The openings include part-time in-store employees, delivery drivers and personal shoppers in its e-commerce department.
While many other businesses scale down their operations or close altogether, grocery stores and pharmacies remain essential parts of life during the Coronavirus. In its Household Plan section, the CDC says to consider having a two-week supply of prescription and over the counter medications, food and other essentials.
In the last two weeks, images of empty store shelves and long lines at grocery and wholesale stores have become common.