Courtesy City of Mercer Island

Courtesy City of Mercer Island

Grocery stores across King County implementing “senior hours”

The hours are dedicated time for those at high risk to shop for groceries.

Grocery stores across King County are adjusting their hours to help protect those with the most health risks related to novel coronavirus.

The coronavirus is being shown to be a higher risk for those who are elderly, pregnant, immunocompromised or have other underlying health conditions. Since the outbreak, requests have been made across communities for stores to have special hours for these groups – although they are often advertised as for the elderly. The advantage to this is not in their ability to buy sooner – stores are restocked periodically throughout the day – but to provide the cleanest experience to those most at risk.

The initiative for this movement is hard to pin down nationally, but the local initiatives are easier to track. On Mercer Island, Councilmember Salim Nice has been working with grocery and convenience stores on the island, which sometimes leads him to working with the corporate ownership of those stores.

“I thought that this would be something useful to work with our island retailers with — I didn’t realize I’d have to go so high up in the corporate chains to get it done,” Nice said. “I kept urging them (to) keep it simple (and) do it fast, that’s the key to being effective with this strategy.”

Nice said that while stores weren’t going to be checking identification, but retailers are asking customers to use their best discretion as to only using speciality hours if they are at-risk.

“It’s an extra benefit to the public,” Nice said. “Their supply chain is moving constantly, nobody is getting first run at (items) … it’s just the best time of the day (for at-risk people) to go because it is cleanest.”

So far, Safeway/Albertsons, Target, Whole Foods, Costco and Kroger-owned QFC and Fred Meyer have announced speciality hours. Some are on specific days (Costco is reserving 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and some are all week (Target is dedicating the first hour of each day). Kroger announced on Saturday morning that all of its stores would introduce specialty hours on March 23.

“Fred Meyer and QFC have partnered to offer special hours for Seniors and other high-risk customers as defined by the CDC. Starting Monday, March 23, both companies would reserve the hours of 7am to 8am for respective customers on specific days,” Kroger said in a press release. “All stores will reserve these hours each Monday through Thursday until further notice. On those days, shopping for all other customers will begin at 8am.”

The press release thanked customers who had raised this concern with the company.

“We have also been inspired to see local communities working together to shop on behalf of seniors and other at-risk customers,” the press release read. “We are asking our customers to be patient, to be kind to one another and our associates, and to shop responsibly and purchase what you need, knowing that we will continue to replenish stores daily with the supplies and products our customers need most.”

Nice said that pharmacies like Rite-Aid and Walgreens had not yet implemented speciality hours, but he was hopeful they soon would. Walgreens announced later on March 23 that they would be enacting senior hours nationally, for the first hour of each day.

King County has started to keep track of grocery stores and their speciality hours at https://kingcounty.gov/council/gethelp/GroceryHours.aspx.


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