Publix Super Markets is joining a growing number of grocers, including Winn-Dixie and Harvey’s stores, that offer early-morning shopping hours exclusively to older customers, a group considered highly at risk to get sick from coronavirus.

After recently shortening its hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to allow more time to sanitize stores and stock shelves, Publix now will offer shopping for customers 65 and older from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting March 24, John Provenzano, vice president for public affairs, said in an email.

Pharmacies will also be open during those hours, he said.

Lakeland-based Publix joins a growing number of food stores instituting hours when seniors can avoid larger crowds while stocking up on critical supplies during brief breaks from self-quarantining at home.

In Florida, the parent company of Winn-Dixie and Harvey’s supermarkets said today that stores immediately will begin reserving 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday for elderly and at-risk customers. Pharmacy locations will open at 8 a.m. on weekdays for refills, flu and pneumonia vaccines and customer counseling.

USA Today lists several national chains instituting senior-only shopping periods. Those with local outlets include:

  • Big Lots: The first hour each day is reserved for senior citizens and “those most vulnerable to this virus.”
  • Dollar General: The first hour each day is reserved for older shoppers. The organization is not “qualifying a specific age.”
  • Target: The discount retailer will “reserve the first hour of shopping each Wednesday at stores nationwide for vulnerable guests.”
  • Walmart: Next Tuesday through April 28, Walmart stores will let in customers 60 and older for one hour before opening time. 

Lakeland City Commissioner Stephanie Madden, who had asked Provenzano about senior shopping at Publix, responded in an email when she heard the company’s plans: “Woo hoo!!! My hometown heroes!  Thank you, Publix! “

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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