Panic shopping from coronavirus has recently left store shelves empty, so some stores are setting aside time for their elderly and at-risk shoppers.


Retailers across the nation are giving priority access to health care workers and first responders.

Stores are designating special shopping hours to help those serving on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The designated hours are similar to what retailers introduced in March for seniors and shoppers with underlying health concerns.

At Costco Wholesale Club, members who are health care workers or first responders can move to the front of lines.

Some businesses including restaurants and convenience stores are offering discounts and freebies including coffee and meals.

Walgreens announced Thursday that it is designating April 25 as “Frontline Heroes Discount Day,” and will give first responders, police and medical personnel 30% off regularly-priced Walgreens brands and 20% off regularly priced national brand products.

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An employment badge or identification is needed at Walgreens, other retailers and restaurants to participate in the majority of the special hours and discounts.

Verizon announced that starting April 23 it is expanding its unlimited pricing plan to include nurses and teachers. New and existing Verizon customers are eligible for the plans along with active-duty military, veterans and first responders.

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Special shopping hours

BJ’s Wholesale Club: From 8 to 9 a.m. Sundays, first responders and health care workers can shop without a membership at all locations when they show their badge for the new “Appreciation Hour.” The senior shopping hour for club members 60 and over will be updated to Monday through Saturday 8 to 9 a.m. because of the change. 

Costco Wholesale ClubCostco is temporarily allowing priority access to members who are health care workers and first responders with valid ID of their role to “move to the front of any line to enter the warehouse,” the company posted on its website.

Giant Eagle: Health care workers and first responders can shop an hour before stores open to the public every Thursday and Friday.

Meijer: The grocery store chain is reserving 7 to 8 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays for essential service workers (all medical workers, first responders and law enforcement) and store employees.

Publix: Until further notice, the Florida-based grocery store chain is extending hours for first responders and hospital staff. The special hours are from 8 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and 7 to 8 a.m. on Fridays.

Sam’s Club: Every Sunday from 8 to 10 a.m. until further notice, health care workers and first responders can shop during Sam’s Club Associate Appreciation Shopping Hours, which also have been dubbed Hero Hours.

Save Mart: All Save Mart, FoodMaxx and Lucky stores will have special shopping hours – one hour before and one hour after posted store hours daily – for first responders, including law enforcement, fire and medical personnel with “proof of credentials.”

Southeastern Grocers: The parent company of BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie grocery stores, is extending hours on Mondays and Tuesdays to add a special shopping hour from 8 to 9 p.m. for health care providers and first responders.

Walmart: The retail giant is reserving an hour each day for pickup orders for first responders as well as shoppers most at risk for the coronavirus. The “pickup hour” is from 7 to 8 a.m. daily.

More special hours: Businesses with more than 50 locations, share your special hours with USA TODAY by filling out this form for possible inclusion in updates to this story.

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Freebies, discounts for health care workers, first responders

Some businesses are delivering free food and coffee to hospitals. At other restaurants, the specials might be offered at select franchise locations and there also are businesses running campaigns where consumers can contribute to the efforts. The following offers are available at participating locations until further notice unless otherwise noted.

Big Lots: Through at least April 30, the retailer is giving all first responders, medical professionals, active military, veterans and commercial truck drivers 15% off everything in stores and online. In stores show your work ID, military ID, commercial driver’s licence or badge. Online use code BIGHEROES at checkout. 

Bojangles’: Through June 10, the chain is giving away free cups of its Legendary Iced Tea to healthcare workers, first responders and law enforcement. No purchase is necessary.

BP: First responders and health care workers get 50 cents off per gallon on their next fill up at BP and Amoco stations. To get the discount, you’ll have to verify your employment status. Learn more at

Checkers and Rally’s: For a limited time at more than 250 of the fast-food chain’s company-owned locations, uniformed medical workers and first responders get a free combo.

Circle K: The convenience store is giving free coffee, tea or soda to health care workers and frontline responders.

Crocs: The company is giving away free footwear to health care workers including doctors and nurses and others in the industry who are on the frontlines of the pandemic. Choose between Crocs Classic Clogs and Crocs At Work styles. The free Crocs are available while supplies last at

Cumberland Farms: The convenience store chain is offering a free cup of hot or iced coffee in any size to healthcare workers, first responders and military personnel “throughout this unprecedented time.” To receive a free coffee, tell a store employee your profession at checkout. 

Dollar General: Through April 30, all medical personnel, first responders and activated National Guardsmen get a 10% discount on qualifying purchases when they show their employment badge or ID at more than 16,300 stores. The discount store said in a news release that the program could be extended.

Kolache Factory: Through April 30, medical workers and first responders get a free breakfast to go (sausage and cheese or fruit kolache and coffee) when they show their ID.

Krispy Kreme: Every Monday through National Nurses Week (May 6-12), Krispy Kreme is giving all health care workers with a badge free dozens of its Original Glazed Doughnuts. This drive-thru offer is for anyone who works at a hospital, as well as physicians, nurses, surgeons, psychologists, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists and their staff. While supplies last.

Starbucks: The coffee giant is serving up free coffee for first responders and health care workers through May 3. The offer is for police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, hospital and medical staff and medical researchers, Starbucks said. 

The Parking Spot: Through May 12, health care workers get free parking at the company’s facilities. To receive free parking, workers need to do is be a member of the Spot Club loyalty program and use their health care email address during sign up and enter corporate code HHERO6918 during the third step. Learn more at

Uber: The ride-hailing service is offering 10 million free rides and deliveries to health care workers, seniors and people in need. The service also says it is giving away free meals.

Verizon: Starting April 23, Verizon is expanding its unlimited pricing plan to include nurses and teachers. They join active-duty military, veterans and first responders with the plans that start at $30 per line per month. The offer is for new and existing Verizon customers. Learn more at

Walgreens: April 25 is “Frontline Hero Discount Day” at the company’s more than 9,200 stores for health care workers and first responders who present their employment badge or appropriate identification get up to 30% off eligible items.

Wawa: For a limited time, the convenience store chain is giving free coffee to health care workers and first responders. 

White Castle: Through April 30, healthcare workers and EMTs get a free Castle Combo or breakfast combo with their ID and a coupon posted at

More discounts: Smaller regional chains may also be treating first responders and health care workers.

Businesses with more than 50 locations, share your discounts or special hours with USA TODAY by filling out this form.

Chipotle to give free burritos to health care, medical professionals

Chipotle Mexican Grill announced Monday that it launching a new buy-one-get-one program to “support healthcare heroes across the U.S.,” the fast-casual chain said in a news release.

Starting Tuesday through April 26, Chipotle says it will donate a burrito to medical professionals every time a Chipotle digital customer names their burrito order “4HEROES” on the Chipotle app or

Health care workers will be able to sign up to request free burritos for their medical facility starting at noon ET May 6, which is Nurses Day.

According to the fine print, the maximum number of burritos to be donated is 100,000 but the “actual number of donated burritos will depend on redemption rate by qualifying health care providers during the promotional period.”

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Contributing: Genna Contino, Greenville News; Brett Molina, USA TODAY

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

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