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More Hawaii stores change hours in response to coronavirus pandemic

More stores are changing their hours in response to customer shopping habits that are changing with the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

Times Supermarkets and Big Save Markets will be adjusting their hours for vulnerable populations, naming the “elder community and customers with vulnerable immune systems” in particular. The changes start Friday and will last indefinitely.

“Our grocery stores are a place where a large majority — or any retail store — a large majority of people gather, and obviously (the novel coronavirus) is communicable by larger groups of people,” Times Supermarket President Chris Borden said via telephone.

Borden said in a news release today that the first store hour for Times Supermarkets and Big Save Markets will be designated for those groups to “ensure a clean and less-crowded environment.”

Borden said a specific age was left out because the stores will not be checking IDs. He said assistants or those accompanying vulnerable populations like seniors during the hours set aside for them will also be allowed in.

According to the Times Supermarkets website, there are 22 Times Supermarkets and Big Save Markets in Hawaii.

Other grocery stores have announced similar changes in their hours in response to the novel coronavirus. Whole Foods, Walmart and Safeway have made or will make similar changes to their locations nationwide, according to recent announcements.

Seniors 60 years old and older can shop at all Whole Foods stores in the U.S. and Canada one hour before the stores open to the general public. Stores will close up to two hours early to allow employees to restock and sanitize their stores. The change in hours started today.

Walmart announced today that the hours to its U.S. stores will change from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. starting Thursday, although stores that open later than 7 a.m. will continue to do so. Running from March 24 to April 28, Walmart will also be offering hour-long “shopping events” for seniors 60 years and older that will start an hour before its stores open.

The Lihue Walmart will close daily at 8 p.m., according to Walmart spokeswoman Tiffany Wilson, to allow customers to return home in time for the 9 p.m. curfew issued today by Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami. The curfew on Kauai will last from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. until further notice.

A Safeway Instagram post today said that its stores will, at minimum, “reserve every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. for those vulnerable shoppers,” including senior citizens and pregnant women, although it is not clear when those changes will be made.

On Tuesday, Sam’s Club changed the stores hours to all its locations to provide employees with an opportunity to restock and sanitize their stores. They are open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. Their Sunday hours are still from 10 a.m. 6 p.m. Pickup orders will still be available for pickup starting at 7 a.m.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported today that Foodland, Foodland Farms, Sack N Save and Target have also announced changes to their store hours in response to the pandemic.

Times Supermarkets, Big Save Markets and Walmart have announced item limitations for certain products. For Times Supermarkets and Big Save Markets, customers are limited to two items of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfectant sprays, disinfectant wipes, rubbing alcohol and rice. Walmart did not specify a number limitation but included milk, eggs, water, formula and baby food.

Borden said there was discussion to change hours to Times Supermarkets and Big Save Markets for about a week. He also said there has a been a greater effort to keep stores clean.

“We’ve been doing it for the last three weeks now — every single night we spray down all of our carts,” he said. “We’re constantly sanitizing and wiping down all of the high-touch surfaces. … It’s a constant effort and battle.”

Borden said there is not an end date for the new hours because the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is “so fluid.”

“The information is changing so frequently, so we’re not planning on putting a deadline until we’ve gotten more clearance from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or government officials,” Borden said, but added, “I’m thinking months as well.”

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