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Magic Valley grocery stores add senior shopping hours, ramp up cleaning to combat COVID-19
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Magic Valley grocery stores add senior shopping hours, ramp up cleaning to combat COVID-19

From the Complete coverage: What Idahoans need to know about the coronavirus series

BURLEY — Some Magic Valley grocery stores have set specific hours to allow senior citizens to shop during the COVID-19 outbreak, are hiring extra help and setting limits on items like toilet paper and hand-sanitizer — and store officials expect most items to remain in stock as supply catches up with demand.

Justin White, manager at Ridley’s Family Markets in Rupert said the store is opening an hour early at 6 to 7 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays for seniors and their caregivers.

Ridley’s Family Markets has 35 stores with other Magic Valley locations in Kimberly, Gooding and Buhl.

What is happening across communities due to the virus is unlike anything he’s witnessed in his 20 years in the business.

“The one thing people shouldn’t do is panic buy,” he said. “If everyone would just do their normal shopping there would be more stuff available for everyone.”

White said the store is getting shipments three days a week and most core items are in stock, but the store is limiting quantities on some items.

“When people see other people with big carts full of items, they think they need to do the same thing, and it spreads like wildfire,” said White.

Andrew Swensen, co-owner of Swensen’s Markets, said the store currently keeps its regular hours and is in the process of modifying store hours and adding specific shopping times for seniors.

“We want people to just take care of themselves in terms of health and listen to the health experts on how to visit public places,” he said. “People need to be part of the solution.”

Swensen’s Markets has two stores in Twin Falls and one in Paul.

“I see a lot of seniors out and about wanting to do their shopping,” he said. “It would be a great thing for families to help their seniors with their shopping and let them stay home.”

Swensen said their stores, like many grocery stores, offer online curbside pickup or delivery of groceries.

A senior or their family member can create an account, shop for a senior who doesn’t have a computer or cellphone and put in the payment and delivery information.

When visiting stores, people should sanitize their hands and carts, he said, and employees have ramped up their safety precautions, too.

Most items are in stock now, with a few things like eggs, paper products, sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer still in short supply.

Supply trucks, he said, are arriving all the time.

“Industry-wide, things are kind of leveling off and mellowing out as we catch up with the demand,” he said.

Swensen said grocery stores will likely remain open amid the closures because they are a community resource and a critical service in times of need.

“We will do what is needed and what is advised by officials,” he said.

Employees, he said, have been working diligently to keep the shelves stocked.

“Our employees here are amazing and have been doing a good job responding to this need in the last five to six days,” he said.

All the clerks have hand-sanitizer at all the registers and they will soon implement wearing latex gloves to prevent the spread of infection from handling money, he said.

“Our employees are at the front lines fighting for everybody and they have just kept an awesome attitude,” White said.

Smith’s Food & Drug Stores is hiring more workers to deal with increased demands to keep shelves stocked and for extra deep cleaning, a company statement said.

“We recognize all of our associates are showing up for our customers and communities when they need us most, with open stores and open-hearted hospitality,” said Aubriana Martindale, Smith’s corporate affairs manager. “To help alleviate the increased workload, we are hiring immediately to make sure we have the food and supplies our customers need in a clean, orderly store environment.”

Smith’s implemented a dedicated hour from 7 to 8 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for senior citizens to shop, until further notice. Hours for other customers will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the store is evaluating extending pharmacy hours to open earlier for seniors.

“Smith’s wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need to avoid busier and more crowded shopping times,” said Martindale, “We request that customers respect these hours for the health of our community during this time of uncertainty. We appreciate all of our customers for their kind consideration, whose concern contributed to our decision to provide allocated hours for seniors.”

Smith’s is also waiving the pick-up fee for online orders for curbside customers age 60 and over through April 18. The company will evaluate if the fee waiver should be extended after that date.

Stokes Fresh Food Market in Burley is offering seniors age 60 and over temporary shopping hours from 7 to 8 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the store will be open from 8 a.m.to 10 p.m. for other shoppers, according to its Facebook page. The store is also hiring for several positions.

Walmart changed its hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. until further notice to allow staff to clean and stock products and stores already operating under reduced hours will keep those hours, according to the company website.

On its website, WinCo Foods says it has implemented temporary store hours from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. The night shift will clean and restock. WinCo has immediate openings for employees.

Fred Myers is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, according to its web page.

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