DC-area grocery stores adjust hours, set purchase limits to soothe coronavirus pandemic pains

While Maryland and Virginia have both issued mandatory stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus, that will not affect whether you can go to the grocery store.

Getting food and supplies are allowed in all three jurisdictions.

Grocery stores, though, have been changing their hours, closing early, giving senior citizens special times to shop and limiting some products.

Here’s a look at what they are doing:

Aldi

“Vulnerable Shopper Hours” at Aldi are from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the coronavirus pandemic.

Aldi said it may place limits on items that are most in demand, such as water, pantry staples, pre-made meals, cleaning supplies and toilet paper.

BJ’s

As of March 22, all BJ’s Wholesale Clubs are open one hour early for members who are ages 60 and over to shop in a less crowded environment using a designated entrance, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily. Although they will not be requesting ID for entry, they ask that those visiting the club, “please respect the purpose of the early opening – and do the right thing for your neighbors.”

BJ’s President Lee Delaney said the company may “limit the number of items per trip on select products to allow more members to purchase what they need.”

Costco

Costco now closes at 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with gas stations closing at 7 p.m. Weekend hours won’t change.
Members aged 60 years and older or those with physical disabilities can shop in special hours from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Only members meeting this criteria will be allowed to enter the warehouse.

Costco placed purchase limits on certain items “to help ensure more members are able to access the merchandise they want and need,” Craig Jelinek, company president said. The company did not specify which items would have purchase limits.

The company changed its policy and will not accept returns on the following items:

  • Toilet paper
  • Bottled water
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Rice
  • Disinfecting spray

Giant

Giant Food reserves 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. for shoppers 60 and older and those with compromised immune systems, starting Friday, March 20.

Most Giant Food stores will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The pharmacy inside stores will open at 6 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.

Giant pledged to maintain its regular savings program, stating that it “continues to offer the same low prices and bonus buy discounts that are available each day to our shoppers. Additionally, we continue to work with our vendor partners to ensure that we can offer promotional savings in our ads and digital coupons.”

Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter closes stores at 8 p.m., as opposed to its usual 12 a.m. closing, the chain tweeted.

Harris Teeter declared a max of three  of three purchases for water, toilet tissue, canned meat, pasta, cleaning supplies and Airborne, cold, flu and allergy medicines.

The grocer added an hour of “senior shopping” time. On Mondays and Thursdays, Harris Teeter is open from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. to give those over 60 a chance to shop.

“To further enhance its commitment to protecting its senior shoppers, Harris Teeter will open its Pharmacies at 7 a.m. every Monday and Thursday and provide more fresh offerings during the designated senior shopping hours,” a news release said.

ExpressLane pickups are designated for seniors from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays and the $4.95 service fee is waived for seniors. The delivery charge of $10 has been cut to $5 during these times.

Harris Teeter installed protective shields at check stands, Customer Service and Pharmacy counters..

Safeway

Safeway announced that, at a minimum, every Tuesday and Thursday it will reserve 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. for at-risk customers to shop.

The company’s definition of at-risk is “pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems, who have been advised to avoid leaving home as much as possible,” along with senior citizens. Find a local Safeway.

Target

Every Wednesday, Target is reserving the first hour after stores open for vulnerable groups to shop. Target now closes all stores an hour early by 9 p.m. to allow for restocking and cleaning.

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s changed its hours to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and stopped its practice of offering food samples.

In some stores, the number of people being allowed to shop at one time is limited. People have been waiting in line 6 feet apart.

Walgreens

Walgreens is reducing hours for all stores, including 24-hour locations, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays. The 24-hour drive-through pharmacies will remain open.

There is a senior’s-only shopping hour from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Tuesday.

The hours for each store are posted on its website.

Walmart

Walmart reduced its hours for its stores and Neighborhood Market stores, shortening the operating hours from 7 a.m. to  8:30 p.m.

On Tuesdays through April 28, Walmart will let customers who are 60 or over shop one hour before the stores open. Pharmacies and vision centers will be open at this time, too.

Walmart said it would keep its prices fair as well.

Wegmans

Wegmans shortened its store hours to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., eliminating the 6 a.m. hour for shoppers.

The store is offering curbside pickup for prescriptions for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or believe they have COVID-19 based on a physician diagnosis.

Whole Foods

Those who are 60 years old or older can now shop at Whole Foods stores an hour before it opens to the general public. For example, if a store’s new hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., customers who are 60 or older can shop starting at 7 a.m.

Whole Foods stores now closes up to two hours early to give our employees more time to restock shelves.

Whole Foods has shut down its in-store dining options.

That means the temporary closure of hot bars, salad bars, soup bars and self-serve pizza. Seated restaurant venues and taprooms will close for in-store dining but will offer takeout.

Indoor and outdoor café seating Whole Foods will be temporarily unavailable, and self-serve offerings will be closed in additional departments, including antipasti & olive bars, acai machines and poke bowls.

Other stores

Montgomery County, Maryland, has compiled a list of grocery stores offering dedicated shopping hours for seniors and people at risk.

WTOP’s Colleen Kelleher contributed to this report.

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