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A Costco policy enacted early in the COVID-19 pandemic is about to end

Costco was one of the first businesses to enact special shopping hours for people at higher risk from COVID-19. That's about to change.

This is the final week for special shopping hours at Costco for seniors, healthcare workers and first responders. The company, which was one of the first to enact the hours in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, will end them starting next Monday.

Since March 2020, Costco locations offered an extra hour of shopping from 9-10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for those three groups. Seniors were considered those 60 and older. The extra hour ends as of April 18.

Back in July 2021, Costco announced plans to end the senior shopping hours, but reversed course just a few days later as COVID cases spiked around the country from the delta variant.

As far as mask regulations go, Costco said on its website that it follows the lead of local jurisdictions -- something it has consistently done throughout the pandemic.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 has largely run its course, causing local and state governments, as well as business, to back off their pandemic restrictions. But the new, more contagious version of omicron called BA.2 is now the dominant strain in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In rare cases, research shows BA.2 can sicken people even if they’ve already had an omicron infection — although it doesn’t seem to cause more severe disease. Vaccines appear equally effective against both types of omicron. For both, vaccination plus a booster offers strong protection against severe illness and death.

Still, the increased infection rate has some places re-instituting restrictions. Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate on Monday after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections.