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Some stores creating 'elderly hours' for seniors to get groceries, supplies before crowds

Some stores are taking steps to protect older and vulnerable customers who may be at the greatest risk from the novel coronavirus.

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This article will be updated as stores announce these policies. Check back for updates.

As supermarkets frantically work to restock shelves and calm shoppers, some stores are taking steps to protect older and vulnerable customers who may be at the greatest risk from the novel coronavirus.

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The pandemic has killed more than 8,800 people worldwide, and officials around the world are taking dramatic steps to limit large groups and encourage "social distancing" in hopes of limiting the spread of the disease.

Target will be reserving the first hour of each Wednesday for the elderly and those with underlying health concerns so they can shop more safely, according to Yahoo Finance. Target's hours of operation will also change, with every store now closing by 9 p.m. nationwide.

All Whole Foods Market stores in the United States and Canada will open an hour early for customers age 60 and older.

"As we prioritize the health and safety of our customers, Team Members and partners, we remain committed to ensuring that all customers have access to the items they need, taking action to support our Team Members and doing our part to help contain the spread of COVID-19," company officials said in a news release Tuesday.

Walmart will offer special shopping hours for those over 60 years old. Those customers will be allowed to come into the store one hour before it opens on Tuesdays from March 24 through April 28.

The company says Walmart stores will now be open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. beginning March 19. Stores that currently open later than 7 a.m. will continue to operate at their regular starting hours.

Dollar General recently announced the first opening hour each operating day will be reserved for senior customers. The stores will also be closing an hour early to allow for time to restock shelves.

Supermarket chain Safeway will also reserve time for its elderly customers. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. will be for seniors and at-risk guests.

Most large U.S. grocery chains are offering customers online pickup and delivery services to help limit shoppers' contact with other people.

Many are also closing earlier to give employees more time to restock shelves and to clean and disinfect stores.

Jersey City, New Jersey, announced Monday that it is working with grocery stores there to provide special access to vulnerable customers -- including pregnant women.

And the mayor of Lorain, Ohio, said that several stores in his city would be making special arrangements for seniors, CNN affiliate WJW reported.

Officials: There's no need to hoard food and supplies

Coronavirus fears have led people all over the world to buy lots of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and other products and to clear store shelves of produce, fresh meat and anything else they might need.

President Donald Trump had a conference call with grocery store and supply chain executives over the weekend and has urged Americans not to stockpile food and other goods.

"Supply chains in the United States are strong, and it is unnecessary for the American public to hoard daily essentials," according to a statement from White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere.