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

While D.C., Maryland and Virginia have 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. Some stores in the area have instituted one-way aisles and placed markings that encourage shoppers to spread out and practice social distancing.

And if you shop in Montgomery County, Maryland, you will need to wear a face covering starting April 13 when you go to a store that sells food.

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.

As of April 9, Aldi has limited the number of people inside its stores to approximately five customers per 1,000 square feet.

Inside the store, Aldi will be rolling out one-way aisles to manage the flow of traffic and help customers maintain social distance from each other and its team members.

Aldi has started to take the temperatures of store and warehouse employee and answer a few basic health screening questions before reporting to work. Any employee with a fever of 100 degrees or higher will be sent home.

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

Starting April 3, Costco will allow only two members to enter the warehouse at a time.
Costco will continue to close at 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with gas stations closing at 7 p.m. on weekdays and 6:30 p.m. on weekends. Costco will be closed on Sunday, April 12.
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 is temporarily allowing priority access to warehouses during all open hours for Costco members who are healthcare workers and first responders such as police officers, EMTs and firefighters. Healthcare workers and first responders who present a membership card and official identification of their role, will be allowed to move to the front of any line 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

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Giant

Giant Food is limiting the number of customers allowed to shop inside its stores, starting Thursday, April 9. Though Giant did not put an exact number on how many customers will be allowed in at any given time, the company said it will reduce store capacity to just 20%. Read more here.

Giant 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.

On Sunday, April 12, Giant will be open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. at all locations and the pharmacy will open at its normal Sunday time and close at 3 p.m.

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 are open from 7 a.m. to 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 is following Giant Food’s decision to now limit the number of customers in its grocery stores at any given time, starting April 10. Read more here.

The company announced earlier that 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.

As of April 4, Target is actively monitoring and and limiting the total number of shoppers based on the store’s specific square footage.

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.

Trader Joe’s has temporarily closed some stores in D.C. and Virginia for additional cleaning after positive cases from crew members.

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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