Coronavirus takes a toll on stores’ stock of household items

Customers making purchases out of fear


Morgan Severson

Empty toilet paper and paper towels aisles at Clear Lake Shores Target.

Morgan Severson , Editor-in-Chief

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread, consumers around the US are scrambling to stock up on essentials in fear of a potential lock down of the country. The scariest factor about the coronavirus is the lack of knowing exactly who and how many people are actually infected. Since the symptoms are so close to the flu (fever, coughing, etc.) it is hard to tell if someone has COVID-19 or just seasonal allergies or the common cold.

Many professionals, like Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, are saying that the US is, “behind much of the rest of the world,” on testing for COVID-19. Many are accrediting the US’ lack in preparation for the virus due to the Trump administration’s dismantling of the National Security Council (NSC), in charge of monitoring and preparing the US for something like a pandemic. President Trump, in a speech on March 13, said that the coronavirus was a blindside that, “came out of nowhere.”

In a futile attempt by the president to ease the mind of Americans, everyone is rushing to the stores, buying out their entire stocks of things like toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizers, milk, eggs, water, pasta, rice and other things they may need in case of a lock down. In a news conference on March 15, President Trump said that customers are buying three to five times more than what they normally go to the store to buy and is urging citizens not to stock up or hoard grocery items, during the pandemic.

“You don’t have to buy so much. There’s no need for anybody in the country to hoard essential food supplies,” President Trump said.

Despite Trump’s claim that there are “no shortages,” in grocery stores right now, customers continue to face long lines just to get inside some stores (like H-E-B) and bare shelves of items that are in high demand. To combat the overflow of customers and lack of products, as well keeping in mind the health of employees and consumers, stores are taking measures such as cutting back hours to restock and deep clean/sanitize, applying limits to highly demanded items, providing the customers with wipes and more. Most companies are taking these measures in response to what the different community needs. Meaning, not all stores even if they are in the same company, will have the same hours or same procedures.

The modified hours for the grocery stores closest to Creek are H-E-B open from eight am to eight pm, Kroger open from seven am to ten pm, Walmart open from six am to 11 pm, Aldi open from nine am to nine pm, however, Target is maintaining its normal hours which are eight am to ten pm.

As of March 16, stores such as H-E-B, Target and Kroger have limits anywhere from one to four items in high demand per household, while stores like Walmart are completely wiped out of milk, tissue, paper towels and water. In addition to this, stores such as Walmart, Kroger and Target were completely or nearly out of all cold and flu related medicine.

Morgan Severson

Employees are taking precautions such as wearing gloves and face masks to check out customers and to bag their items and companies, especially the ones dealing with food, are urging employees to stay home if they feel any illness or the symptoms of the coronavirus.

However, local stores, as well as stores around the nation, are facing major shortages on hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, all-purpose cleaners, soaps, face masks, gloves and more. The majority of these items are purchased in fear and paranoia, as professionals and organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) are saying it is not necessary for someone perfectly healthy to wear things such as a face mask.

“If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly,” WHO, giving advice on when to wear face masks, said.

Fast food chains, like some Chick-fil-a and Starbucks locations, are only serving customers by drive thru, to prevent the spread of the disease in their restaurants. Other fast food restaurants are either following in Chick-fil-a’s and Starbucks’ footsteps or taking extra precautions inside of the restaurants like McDonald’s, with their CEO promising extra cleaning of, “high touch areas,” – since the virus can be picked up from touching hard surfaces an infected person has contaminated.

Retail stores such as Nike, Gap, Abercrombie and many others, are reducing their store hours or completely closing for a period of time. The closures or limited hours vary from the different companies and locations, but many stores are still allowing customers to make purchases on their websites.

With the end of the coronavirus pandemic nowhere to be seen, Americans continue to exacerbate the situation by buying out companies of their products. Many are letting fear drive them to make purchases. With the high demand and lack of products such as hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and face masks, doctors and nurses on the frontlines taking care of COVID-19 patients are facing shortages of what they need.