Stores reserve hours for at-risk groups


Dried pasta shelves empty in an Australian supermarket/OgreBot/

Panic-buying leaves shelves empty, causing grocery chains such as Safeway to reserve hours for groups most at risk from COVID-19.

As of March 17, some grocery chains will be reserving regular hours for groups most threatened by COVID-19, according to KREM. Among these chains are stores owned by Cerberus Capital, which includes Safeway and Albertsons.

Safeway, which has 165 locations in the Bay Area and 240 in California, is reserving two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays for these at-risk groups. Albertsons, which has 128 locations across California, is doing the same.

Customers who are allowed to shop during these hours include senior citizens, those who are pregnant, and people who are immunocompromised.



This measure is intended to counteract the upsurge in the panic-buying that has accompanied the COVID-19 outbreak. There are now confirmed cases in every U.S. state, according to the Washington Post.

While a global pandemic is undoubtedly a stressful situation, panic-buying likely does little to help. Stockpiling necessities like toilet paper and hand sanitizer are causing these shortages, and certain supplies are especially dangerous to hoard.

For example, N95 surgical masks are in high demand, but the general public gains no benefit by using them. In fact, according to Forbes, if the average citizen uses masks to prevent catching an illness, they may have a slightly higher risk of infection.

However, these supplies are crucial to healthcare providers and those who are ill. These masks stop the spread of germs when the wearer is sick. By hoarding them, there are now shortages among those who actually need them, such as healthcare providers.

As these supplies are torn from the shelves, it is not only healthcare specialists who find themselves lacking in necessary materials.

“How am I supposed to diaper my child if I can’t afford to buy 20 at a time?” said Lauren Whitney, a mother of four in Utah, asked in a now-viral TikTok.

Utah currently has significantly fewer cases than California: Utah is sitting at 51 cases, whereas California measures up to 698 as of March 17.

While San Mateo County is currently in a shelter-in-place, shopping for necessities such as food is one of the activities still permitted.

“What I need for you to do now is follow my recommendations, advice, and orders, unite as a community, come to each other’s aid, and let kindness, compassion, and gratitude guide your actions,” said Scott Morrow, the San Mateo County health officer, in his most recent announcement.

Check the hours that are reserved for at-risk groups for local Safeways here.

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