In battle against COVID-19, Dollar General dedicates first hour of shopping to seniors

Dollar General on Monday announced it is dedicating its first hour of operations to allow seniors to shop.

Starting from Tuesday, March 17, seniors will be able to purchase what they need from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m.

"Dollar General is strongly encouraging that the first hour of operations each day be dedicated solely for the shopping needs of senior customers, who are one of the groups most vulnerable to the COVID-19 coronavirus. In keeping with the Company's mission of Serving Others, Dollar General wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need and want at the beginning of each day to avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods," the company said.

Dollar General made the announcement not long after several other stores made similar changes, as concerns over the coronavirus drove people to flock to grocery stores and empty shelves of non-perishables.

Vallarta stores announced they will be open from seven until eight each morning starting Wednesday, only for seniors, pregnant women and disabled customers.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The White House on Monday urged all older Americans to stay home as part of sweeping guidelines meant to combat an expected surge of coronavirus cases.

"We appreciate our customers' understanding of our decision and request they visit our stores later in the morning to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices," said Todd Vasos, Dollar General's CEO.

The company said it was taking the measure to allow seniors to avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods.

It said all stores plan to close one hour earlier than current close times to allow employees to clean and re-stock store shelves.

The Associated Press contributed to this report