Stores opt to close, modify hours in the midst of coronavirus outbreak

The changes in operations are to prevent further spread of the virus and allow more time for cleaning and restocking.


Apple will temporarily close all stores outside of Greater China until March 27, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Saturday.

The company will also commit $15 million to help with the worldwide recovery from the virus, he said, "both to help treat those who are sick and to help lessen the economic and community impacts of the pandemic."

The company has also launched a new section in Apple News for the virus, where Cook said users can find updates from "trusted news outlets."

There are now more than 142,000 coronavirus cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization and at least 5,388 deaths.

As of Saturday, all of the company's stores in China have reopened.

"As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we're taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers," Cook said.

Employees in all other parts of the world who are able to work remotely should do so, Cook said, and "those whose work requires them to be on site should follow guidance to maximize interpersonal space."

There will be "deep cleaning " at all sites, Cook said, and they are rolling out health screenings and temperature checks at all offices.

Hourly workers will continue to be paid, he said.

And the company has also expanded leave policies for those who are impacted by the virus "including recovering from an illness, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining, or childcare challenges due to school closures."

Other businesses have announced new cleaning plans, modified hours or changes in operations.

In a letter to customers Thursday, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said the company is monitoring the situation and is ready to make changes if necessary.

"While we are currently maintaining regular operations across the U.S. and Canada, our stores are prepared to modify operations with options that still allow us to serve you your favorite beverage and food," the letter says. "This means that as we navigate this dynamic situation community-by-community and store-by-store, we may adapt the store experience by limiting seating to improve social distancing, enable mobile order-only scenarios for pickup via the Starbucks App or delivery via Uber Eats, or in some cases only the Drive Thru will be open."

Johnson said closing a store would be a last resort "if we feel it is in the best interest of our customers and partners, or if we are directed to do so by government authorities."

"In any such situation, we expect store disruption to be temporary," Johnson wrote.

Taco Bell CEO Mark King announced Friday that the fast food chain is preparing to close its dining room and offer only drive-thru and delivery amid the outbreak.

"As regions of the U.S. begin to mandate public closures and self-quarantine, we are equipping our restaurants to serve our guests via drive-thru and delivery only, where necessary," King wrote in an email. "Should we need to temporarily close our dining rooms, we would be limiting millions of guest interactions and further enabling social distancing."

King said the change is to help keep the virus from spreading. The company is also amending its sick policy for employees at company-owned restaurants in the United States, he added.

"We'll be paying employees who are required to stay at home, or who work at a restaurant that is closed, for their scheduled or regularly schedule hours during their time away from work," King's email says.

Several grocery chains across the United States are changing store hours during the coronavirus outbreak, saying the reduced hours will give them more time to clean stores, restock and keep workers healthy.

Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets will now open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice.

"This will help ensure associates can stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing," said Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Stores currently operating under more reduced hours will keep their current hours of operation.

Publix, a grocery chain that has more than 1,200 stores across Florida and southern states, will begin closing two hours early to give employees time to restock produce and sanitize shelves.

"Publix will continue to focus on keeping our associates healthy — and our stores open and stocked — to serve and support all our communities," Todd Jones, Publix CEO, said in a statement on the chain's website.

The Giant Company, a chain located in Pennsylvania with nearly 200 stores across the mid-Atlantic, announced Saturday that its 24-hour locations would start closing at midnight and reopening at 6 a.m. ET the following day. It cited the same reasons as Publix in a news release: "The decision comes as part of the company's continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will allow store team members additional time to sanitize and restock shelves as daily deliveries arrive."

"We are currently experiencing shortages and out of stocks on many household staples, including disinfecting and cleaning products. We are focused on getting back in stock as soon as possible," said Ashley Flowers, a public relations manager at Giant, in a statement to CNN Business.

Harris Teeter, a large supermarket chain serving the southeast tweeted Saturday that it will close its stores at 9 p.m. ET each night in order to focus on cleaning and replenishing and for the health of their employees, starting Sunday night.

Other grocery chains, including the country's largest, Kroger, as well as Albertsons, Texan chain H-E-B, Trader Joe's, Walmart, Target, BJ's and Whole Foods have not announced any changes to their hours. But officials from several of those chains have posted on their websites that they will doing more cleaning in light of the current pandemic.