Don Moul, 69, said he's been searching for hand sanitizer for two weeks now. 

The West Manchester Township resident was among dozens of  seniors Thursday facing the same situation — a lack of essential products that have been recently bought in large quantities because of panic over rising cases of COVID-19.

"I always get there five minutes after the shelves are empty," Moul said. 

To give senior citizens a chance to do some shopping during the coronavirus outbreak, several grocery and retail chains have started setting special shopping hours for older customers.

Thursday, dozens of senior citizens waited outside the Giant at 1255 Carlisle Road at 6 a.m. for a chance to grab essentials. Giant stores will be open 6 to 7 a.m. daily for only those who are 60 or older, the company announced  Wednesday.

Once the sliding glass doors opened, one manager told shoppers the store had received a new supply of toilet paper — to which customers gleefully cheered in response.

At Walmart, any customer 60 years of age or older can arrive before the store opens at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays from March 24 through April 28. Similarly, Target has applied times for seniors to shop on Wednesdays when stores first open, though hours vary by  location.

"It's really nice, it's one of the few times being a senior citizen pays off," said Sheila Bedell, who was picking up produce at Giant.

Bedell, 64, of York City, said she was also shopping for her sister, who is recovering from hip replacement surgery. 

She said it's important during this time of uncertainty for people to look out for each other and check up on friends, neighbors and family members.

"We're all in this together," Bedell said.

The coronavirus claimed its first victim in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, the same day York County saw its first two confirmed cases.

Carmine Fusco, 55, died Wednesday afternoon at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem. His death occurred hours before his mother, Grace Fusco, 73, died of the virus in New Jersey and five days after his sister, Rita Fusco-Jackson, 55, also died from the illness in New Jersey.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday afternoon declared a state of emergency, urging the closure of all “nonessential businesses” in the state after the number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 76. That number had topped 180 as of Thursday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

Moul, who has 13 grandchildren, said before he started shopping that it's been hard practicing social distancing. Though he said he's healthy, he suffered a heart attack 10 years ago and had diabetes complications. 

"It's been a little tough telling people 'stay away,'" Moul said. "We love you, but we don't want to die for you, so give us some space these next few weeks."

— Reach Tina Locurto at or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

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