Area grocery stores offering new hours for elderly, disabled

  • Customers shop at Save-a-Lot in Palatka on Friday morning
    Customers shop at Save-a-Lot in Palatka on Friday morning
  • Winn-Dixie in Palatka rolled out new sanitization standards, which include offering hand sanitizer and disinfected carts to customers.
    Winn-Dixie in Palatka rolled out new sanitization standards, which include offering hand sanitizer and disinfected carts to customers.
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Grocery stores around Putnam County are rolling out new hours to accommodate older and disabled residents while coronavirus is still a concern.

As of Friday evening, there were 563 COVID-19 cases in Florida. 

Save-a-Lot in Palatka was one store that dedicated hours 8 a.m.-9 a.m. to residents who were more at risk. 

Assistant manager Mevely Spell said the change went into effect Thursday and customers were already appreciating the time. Those who qualify must be 60 or older or disabled. The times are set until employees are notified otherwise. 

“(We) let them feel comfortable and not feel pressured because a lot of (shoppers) have bad immune systems,” Spell said. “It was done for sanitation purposes, but it was done for the elderly because (health officials) say the virus is more (dangerous) to the elderly.”

Save-a-Lot staff members also wipe down the carts with disinfectant wipes and encourage shoppers to do the same. 

Publix announced new hours 7 a.m.-8 a.m. for the older generation to shop beginning Tuesday. People 65 and older can shop every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. The Publix pharmacy will also open at 7 a.m. and these changes will continue until further notice. 

“Our routine cleaning and sanitation standards already meet (Centers for Disease Control and Preventions) guidelines,” Publix Supermarkets CEO Todd Jones said in a statement. “Additionally, we’ve put in place a heightened disinfection response program. We’ve also suspended food demonstrations in our stores until further notice.”

Winn-Dixie rolled out new sanitation precautions such as having an employee disinfect carts for customers and including special hours for people at higher risk to contract the virus. 

“We pride ourselves on adhering to the highest standards of cleanliness in our stores, and we’ve added extra focus in our most high-touch areas of the store, such as check-out, PIN pads, cart corrals, etc.,” Anthony Hucker, CEO and president of Southeastern Grocers, said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, (Winn-Dixie) stores will no longer operate our self-serve deli bars. Instead, we will have prepackaged deli items available.”

The hours 8 a.m.-9 a.m. Monday through Friday are dedicated to high-risk customers and the pharmacy will open 8 a.m. weekdays for prescription refills, customer counseling and influenza and pneumonia vaccines. 

Walmart stores will close 8:30 p.m. to restock and clean shelves. Beginning Tuesday through April 28, an hour will be set aside before the store opens for senior residents age 60 or older to do their shopping, Walmart’s website said. 

The Walmart pharmacy and eye center will be open at this time. 

As grocery stores are closing earlier to stock up and properly clean for customers, many stores still have signs apologizing for items being low in stock. 

“(Publix employees) are working tirelessly to have the items you need on our shelves. We have applied purchase limits on some key items to allow more customers to get what they need,” Jones said. 

Grocery stores are encouraging customers to follow CDC guidelines such as hand washing, self-isolation and limiting contact with other people. 

“Just like everybody else is doing we’re taking precautions to make sure everybody is safe,” Spell said. “We’re doing our best to keep shelves stocked and to provide (groceries).”