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Coronavirus Update: Safeway, Whole Foods Join Move To Launch Senior Shopping Hours

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Safeway and Whole Foods joined the growing number of Northern California grocery chains announcing special hours allowing seniors to shop so they can buy their needed food and household supplies during the current coronavirus crisis.

Albertsons, which owns Safeway, announced twice weekly special hours for seniors along with "other at-risk populations," such as pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. The special hours are scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., unless otherwise locally mandated.

"We are asking our customers to respect these special hours for those who are most at risk in our communities," Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran said in a statement." We thank our customers in advance for their compassion and understanding toward their neighbors and friends, and in helping us maintain this temporary operations guideline."

At Whole Foods Market, company officials announced all stores in the U.S. and Canada would service customers who are 60 and older one hour before opening to the general public starting on Wednesday.

"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 company said in it's announcement.

The chain it would also be closing stores up to two hours early to give their employees more time to restock shelves, sanitize our stores and rest in preparation for the next day.

All the chain's Bay Area locations open regularly at 9 a.m. Seniors will be allowed to shop at 8 a.m.

On Tuesday, Zanotto's grocery stores in the San Jose also launched senior hour shopping. From 8 to 9 a.m., the company's four South Bay stores will be open to only those who were 60 or older. The shoppers who took advantage were thankful for this store special.

The line was long during hour exclusively for senior shopping, but all was in order as people were let in one-by-one as others exited the store.

What seemed like an endless amount of groceries needing to be scanned, did not seem to faze the calm patrons.

"My mom who is a senior herself is guarding the front door," said Zanotto's Vice-President of Marketing Khadija Zanotto. "We are trying to be as nice as possible but the great thing our community really understands is these are the people we really need to take care of."

"I think that's perfect," said shopper Ana Maria Russo. "I actually think that's a great thing for people because that is the most vulnerable demographic in San Jose and they need to be protected."

"I just need to get some groceries. I haven't been able to get it on Instacart or Amazon Prime or any of the ways to get groceries so I figured I'd try this today," said shopper Renee Griggs.

One shopper praised the time arrangement and wondered why it couldn't be expanded.

"Not everybody is as capable as the younger people," said shopper Gordon Patnude. "This is a good thing. But I think restricting it to an hour is kind of a little ridiculous."

All four Zanotto's locations will be doing this for the foreseeable future. They're also delivering groceries for those who can make it physically to the store.

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