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Amazon adding more grocery delivery capacity during surge in online orders

The e-commerce giant is also prioritizing high-demand grocery and pantry items and has temporarily closed many of its retail stores.

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Whole Foods stores, which are owned by Amazon, will remain open but with adjusted hours.

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Amazon is working to beef up delivery capacity and pick-up options for its Amazon Fresh grocery service and Whole Foods markets during the coronavirus pandemic, to help more people get food to their homes, the company said.

As most of the US is asked to stay home during the health crisis, food delivery providers have been inundated with new orders, making it harder for customers to snag delivery slots and harder for grocers to keep high-demand items from going out of stock.

Amazon said in a blog post this week that it's temporarily prioritizing pantry items, household staples and other high-demand items for its grocery stores and grocery delivery services. Purchase quantities will be limited for the most popular products. For its main e-commerce website, the company already prioritized household basics and medical supplies for both incoming shipments into its warehouses and deliveries to customers.

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The company closed its Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star, and Amazon Pop Up stores until April 7. Amazon Go convenience stores in Chicago, New York City and San Francisco are closed until at least April 7. Workers in those stores will continue to be paid.

The world's biggest online retailer has instituted a large number of changes in its stores, warehouses and logistics networks amid the coronavirus crisis, as it tries to respond to a surge in customer orders and keep its locations sanitized to prevent its workers and customers from getting sick. So far, at least 10 Amazon warehouses have confirmed coronavirus cases, resulting in its workers and their supporters criticizing the company for not doing enough to protect them.

Amazon said its unattended delivery option is available to delivery customers who want to practice safe social distancing, as is recommended by the government and medical professionals during the crisis. Orders that include alcohol won't have the option to use unattended delivery.

Whole Foods stores, which are owned by Amazon, will remain open but with adjusted hours. Shoppers who are 60 and older have access to the store one hour before opening to the general public. Stores will also close two hours early to allow employees to sanitize the stores and restock shelves.

To help with the higher demand, Amazon has said it will hire an additional 100,000 employees in the US, and it raised wages and overtime pay for its hourly workers.