A man with a mask stands in line with hundreds of other shoppers waiting for Costco to open on Tuesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A man with a mask stands in line with hundreds of other shoppers waiting for Costco to open on Tuesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

‘Senior hour’ gives at-risk shoppers more time and space

Stores are adjusting to accommodate seniors and others who need to avoid crowds. And they’re hiring.

EVERETT — It’s the new happy hour for seniors.

Stores are designating special shopping time slots for seniors and those at high risk for infection.

They can get their milk, eggs and wine in a less crowded setting during “senior hour” at supermarkets. Pregnant women also are invited.

The catch: You have to get up early. And drinks are not included.

Dollar General is dedicating the first hour of operations for the shopping needs of seniors. The chain, and many others, are closing earlier than usual to sanitize and restock.

At Safeway and Albertsons, senior hours are from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Target is reserving the first hour every Wednesday for vulnerable shoppers. The store will continue to maintain limitations on in-demand items.

At Whole Foods Market stores, those at risk can shop an hour before opening.

Workers at Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, are getting an additional $2 per hour on top of their current hourly rate through the month of April.

Grocery workers are on the front lines during the pandemic that has changed the way people eat, work and play.

United Food and Commercial Workers 21, 367, 1439 and Teamsters 38 reached an agreement with Safeway/Albertsons and Fred Meyer/QFC to help support and protect grocery store workers and shoppers.

“By and large, we’re seeing worker after worker really step up to the plate,” said Tom Geiger, spokesman for UFCW 21. “That said, we’re also wanting to make sure that as unionized workers their rights are protected and even enhanced.”

The agreement is to jointly work with the state and federal government to treat grocery store workers as first responders and set up a childcare fund for grocery employees.

The resolution includes more flexible schedules to accommodate childcare and up to two weeks of pay for workers diagnosed with COVID-19 or workers required to self-quarantine, before needing to access sick leave and other contractual paid leave.

“This allows more of a practical balance,” Geiger said. “Workers can have increased hours, if they want them. It allows more workers to potentially stay home, either to take care of a sick kid or take care of themselves, or take care of a kid that would otherwise be at home unsupervised.”

Markets are in big demand for more workers. A joint hiring hall by the unions speeds up the process. Some are hired on the spot and put to work.

Most senior centers are offering pickup meals.

The Carl Gipson Senior Center, through partnership with Homage Senior Services, has lunches from 11 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday outside the main entrance at 3025 Lombard Ave. The center has been closed since March 5.

Guests are asked to bring exact change, pick up a meal quickly and not linger to socialize.

For those 60 years and older, $3 is the suggested donation. Non-eligible people under 60 can purchase a meal for $7.50.

Thursday’s menu : Vegetable soup, chicken salad sandwich, macaroni salad, fresh fruit, cookie and chips.

On Friday: Vegetable chili, ham sandwich, broccoli salad, fresh fruit, chips and a cookie.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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