Stores Accommodate Seniors and At-Risk-Populations During COVID-19

Beginning only with self-checkouts at the Pinetop Safeway store's first senior day, a senior shopper reported that the line wrapped around all the way to the bread isle to down past the bakery and then past the dairy. The store quickly opened more registers. Approximately 100 people showed up from 6 to 9am for the senior and at-risk shopping hours.

WHITE MOUNTAINS — A number of stores have made it a priority to make available the first hour or couple of hours of their operation to accommodate seniors and those medically-at-risk during the COVID-19 outbreak.

All stores are working hard to clean and sanitize and stock the shelves for customers. There are early morning shopping hours for seniors and others at-risk to offer a safer time for the special population before mixed crowds arrive inside the store. Many of these stores have adjusted their hours so they have time to re-stock their shelves with what they have received during the day before the store opens again.

Bashas’, who has always dedicated the first Wednesday of the month as a discount day for seniors, led the way opening their stores from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. March 18; each Wednesday that time will be set aside for seniors 65 and older until further notice. This time-frame is also applicable for Eddie’s Country Store in Pinetop. Their ad on Facebook states that a valid I.D. will be required at the door. If a senior is in need of a caretaker, they will be allowed one caretaker and that person can only shop for the senior. The Bashas’ Dine’ markets will also set aside each Wednesday but the time will be from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Safeway opened their doors for seniors and other at-risk persons from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 24, and Thursday, March 26. They will continue that schedule during the coronavirus crisis. There is no I.D. requirement at their stores.

At the Show Low store on Tuesday, one of the local shoppers said the Safeway staff were very nice, but somewhat overwhelmed. When the lines went all the way back to the milk area, they opened additional registers other than just the self-checkout to accommodate them. Customers reported on Facebook that some of the shoppers were not as courteous as the cashiers and when registers opened up, shoppers jumped in front of those who had been waiting in line. There was a guesstimate of about 100 people who showed up for senior shopping. Some were also disappointed that the shelves were still sparse.

Local resident Tammy Moore, who shopped that morning for about 20 minutes, but stood in line to check out around 40 minutes said, “There was plenty of space and no hoarding.” She said the store was really clean but the toilet paper and paper towel aisles were empty. She also said people did their best to respect distancing.

Nancy Quinn was pretty happy with her Safeway shopping experience. She posted on Facebook, “Safeway was pretty chill for seniors shipping [sic], except two ladys [sic] almost came to blows because one didn't realize there was one line for check out. I got rice, yay!, Veggies, bacon, wine, canned goods, the last large Tillamook cheese, bread, milk, sugar, eggs. No flour, orange juice, butter, paper products. “

Also beginning Tuesday, Walmart opened their doors for seniors and those at risk at 6 a.m. which also includes the pharmacy. Their hours will also continue until further notice. The pharmacy asks that customers help minimize wait time during that hour by calling in their prescription refills at least 24 hours in advance.

Concho resident Bill Lightfoot ventured out Tuesday morning to get the family shopping done. He said the place was packed with older folks, and jokingly his wife reported that he said “the police were outside to make sure canes and walkers weren’t used as weapons.” On the serious side, he said most carts were packed. He acknowledged that “the objective was to keep older people away from the virus, and to get a lot to last for weeks,” and he did.

Some of the other stores opening for seniors and the at-risk include Big Lots and Dollar General. Big Lots is open seven days a week and is reserving the first hour of the day from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for those at-risk. Dollar General is also reserving the first hour of their business day – 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. for seniors which they began last week.

The CDC reports, “Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.”

President and CEO of Bashas’ Family of Stores Edward Basha said in an open letter to the public, “One of the most important things we can do during a time like this is to be kind and considerate of others. Our store members are working diligently to serve you and your kind words of appreciation mean a great deal. As we work diligently to obtain the needed groceries and restock our stores, I encourage each of you to shop responsibly by taking only what you need to get by. The unprecedented demand has put a strain on the food supply chain these last few weeks nationwide. If we all just take what we need, it will be easier to provide for all.”

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Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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