While most of the Valley region’s retail sector has temporarily shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak, grocery stores are busier than ever as throngs of shoppers stock up in preparation for days or weeks spent at home in self-quarantine.
In response, several grocery brands have issued special hours for senior citizens, the demographic with the highest risk of both contracting coronavirus and developing health complications from the illness.
Ralphs, owned by Kroger, issued a statement Thursday notifying shoppers that all stores will dedicate 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. solely to senior citizens.
“Ralphs wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need to avoid busier and more crowded shopping times,” John Votava, Ralphs director of corporate affairs, said in a statement.
All other customers can enter Ralphs stores between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Ralphs has stores in nearly every Valley community from Woodland Hills to Burbank.
Similarly, Albertsons Cos. has announced that its grocery brands including Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons will reserve every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 to 9 a.m. for entry by senior citizens, pregnant women and shoppers with compromised immune systems.
Meanwhile, Target Corp. is reserving the first shopping hour of every Wednesday to senior shoppers and those with disabilities, while Walmart will do the same on Tuesdays. Costco Warehouse Corp. has announced seniors may skip any entry lines to reduce their time spent in close proximity with large groups.
Additionally, to comply with social distancing recommendations, Ralphs is limiting the number of people allowed to enter its stores at one time. The grocery will allow 50 “customer households” in its stores at 7:30 a.m. and then an additional 25 customer households every 10 minutes thereafter.
Along the same lines, security guards at health-conscious chain Sprouts, which has stores in Burbank, Granada Hills, West Hills, Woodland Hills, Santa Clarita and Simi Valley, are limiting entry to 20 customers at a time.
Many chains including Ralphs have enforced product purchase limits on the number of cold, flu and sanitary products a customer may buy in a single trip to prevent hoarding and reselling. Trader Joe’s, too, has implemented a strict purchase limit of two of any given food or sanitation product per customer.
And nearly every grocery chain has released statements regarding their heightened sanitation efforts, with more frequent cleanings of high-touch areas like restrooms, registers, grocery carts and hand-baskets.
As for worries regarding the region’s supply chain, grocery executives held a public conference Monday morning with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to quell concerns.
“Supply chains are completely uninterrupted and there is no shortage of food,” Garcetti said in a video recording of the conference. “Hoarding is hurting our most vulnerable Angelenos – folks who need food but are unable to get it or unable to wait in those lines.”
Pharmacies are considered “essential businesses” and have therefore remained open despite the outbreak.
CVS is offering free telemedicine visits for all customers as a way to limit potential exposure from in-person visits to physician offices. It is also waiving charges for home delivery of prescription medications, helping limit the number of customers in stores.
Walgreens has announced temporarily reduced hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., including 24-hour stores. Drive-through pharmacies, however, will remain open 24 hours and will sell cleaning supplies and sanitizers, cold and fever drugs, baby food, first aid supplies and some grocery items.