A number of stores are opening their doors early to older people so that they can get their shopping done without the fear of large crowds amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Stores like Dollar General and Stop & Shop announced that starting Tuesday, each would have hours dedicated exclusively to senior and disabled shoppers.
Dollar General, which operates more than 16,000 stores across 44 states, said in an announcement that all of its locations would dedicate the first hour of operations to senior customers, “who are one of the groups most vulnerable to the COVID-19 coronavirus.”
“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, adding that other customers should work around those hours if possible.
Stop & Shop, a grocery chain that operates more than 400 stores across the Northeast, made a similar announcement, saying that only customers over the age of 60 would be allowed inside from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
“We’re making the decision to offer this every day of the week to allow for community members in this age category to shop in a less crowded environment, which better enables social distancing,” the store wrote. “They’ll also be shopping prior to any other customers entering.”
The Centers for Disease Control says that older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease are at a higher risk of getting seriously ill from the coronavirus.
They’re encouraged to avoid crowds as much as possible, and to keep away from others in public.
Just like Dollar General and Stop & Shop, select Trader Joe’s have adopted similar exclusive hours, like in Monrovia, California, according to KTLA.
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Meanwhile, Jersey City, New Jersey announced on Monday morning it would be reaching out to local grocery stores to work toward setting aside hours specifically for elderly residents, people with disabilities and pregnant women between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. starting Tuesday.
The struggle among the vulnerable populations to safely get their groceries has inspired acts of kindness countrywide from people like Becky Hoeffler, who arranged a way for those in her North Carolina community to shop for free for their older neighbors.
“I think being able to help people and being able to help your neighbor is one of the most American things that you can do,” she told WNCN. “I think utilizing people power is one of the best ways that we can combat the virus.”
There are at least 5,002 cases of coronavirus and 93 deaths in the United States as of Tuesday afternoon, according to The New York Times.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.