People wait outside Meijer in Springfield Monday morning. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

Coronavirus: Clark County groceries reserve special hours for seniors, at-risk to shop

Grocery stores are dedicating early morning hours to senior shoppers, including in Clark County, in response to the COVID-19, or coronavirus outbreak that poses a serious health or even deadly threats to those age 60 and older.

Among them is the establishment of special hours at grocery stores for senior citizens and others at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 or suffering severe consequences if they do.

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Those stores include Kroger (Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 7-8 a.m.), Meijer (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 a.m.-8 a.m.), Walmart (Tuesdays 6-7 a.m.) and the New Carlisle IGA (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7-8 a.m.).

Additionally, Dollar General announced the first hour of business at its stores should be reserved for at-risk customers while others are encouraged to plan their shopping trips around that window.

A Facebook post by the Clark County sheriff’s office highlighted some of the stores with the special shopping hours while another post explained deputies — some in uniform and others undercover — would be posted at every grocery store in the city of Springfield and throughout the county.

Sheriff Deb Burchett told the Springfield News-Sun that was in response to reports of elderly people being treated poorly in stores in the area.

“I’ve received several messages from the public and from managers of the stores saying that the elderly people are being shoved around,” Burchett said. “People have been trying to steal out of their baskets. They’re trying to take their purses out in the parking lot, and I thought, ‘We can’t have this for our community. We’re better than that.’ So I decided that I would post an officer at every one of the stores when the elderly and at-risk are going into get their groceries to let them know we’re here for them whatever they need.

“I want them to feel safe in our community.”

Kroger and Meijer did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Burchett said Shoemaker’s IGA in South Charleston was left off the list after indicating they had not had problems, something owner Rollie Shoemaker confirmed.

“We’ve seen nothing like that,” Shoemaker said. “People out here are pretty patient, and we’ve had no issues at all out here.”

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He also confirmed the store has not seen a need to make special hours for elderly customers, at least not yet.

“Most of time they’re in here early anyway, so that’s kind of what we’ve been telling people: If they’re worried about it, they could come in early,” he said. “We have had a few people who have just called and given us a list, and we would take their groceries out to them so they don’t have to come in if they don’t want to.”

After the first morning of deputies being posted at other stores throughout the county, Burchett reported no criminal activity but said some of her deputies did encounter younger people trying to enter stores during the hours set aside for the elderly at and at-risk.

“They explained each one of the stores is open for an hour for the elderly,” she said. “As soon as that’s over with, the younger people can go in.”

She also confirmed other citizens, including doctors, nurses and first-responders who might work late shifts and be limited when they can make their grocery trips are being allowed to take advantage of the special hours.

READ MORE: Nehemiah Foundation created COVID-19 Elder and High Risk Match Program

The Center for Disease Control has advised older adults and those of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from the new coronavirus.

High-risk conditions include chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, heart disease with complications, those who are immunocompromised (including those receiving cancer treatments) and people of any age with severe obesity, diabetes, renal failure or liver disease.

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