Shelves stripped of paper products still greet local shoppers, as a new executive order for Anderson County requires large stores to designate special shopping hours for seniors, pregnant women, and others with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems. 

Anderson County's large stores are now required to set aside at least one hour per day on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays as exclusive shopping times for people who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Under an executive order by Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston, effective now, the shopping periods of one hour, during three days a week, aim to accommodate seniors, pregnant women, people with underlying health conditions, and others with weakened immune systems.

Covered by the order are big-box stores, grocery stores, supermarkets, warehouse stores, and Dollar Stores.

Stores may pick which hour they schedule for at-risk shoppers during the three designated days. Palestine Mayor Steve Presley, a pharmacist at Walmart, said he expects most stores to pick times early in the morning.

The order comes as more and more people wear cotton masks in public to protect themselves against the spread of COVID-19. On Tuesday afternoon, roughly a third of those shopping at Palestine's Walmart store wore masks. Also on Tuesday, Anderson County reported its second confirmed case of COVID-19.

“This is my first day wearing a mask; I'm trying to be extra careful,” Walmart shopper Andrea Lee, 33, of Jacksonville said.

The Centers for Disease Control now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public setting where social distancing measures are hard to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

Cleanable cloth masks should fit comfortably but snugly, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, and permit unrestricted breathing.

Anyone under 2, or who has trouble breathing, should not wear cloth face masks.

Stores must post shopping times for those especially at-risk on the door; shoppers must continue to practice social distancing – staying at least six feet from others, whenever possible.

“This is another way to protect the health and safety of our residents,” Presley said.

The executive order remains in effect until further notice.

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