COVID-19 precautions prompt panic buying

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Panic buying toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning products and other necessities appears to be a new trend in connection to the coronavirus outbreak. Grocery stores and retailers in the area have experienced a shortage due to the high demand for these products. 

Jake Gaskin is the owner of Southend Market located on 700 East on South Campus. In the six years he’s been the owner, this is the first time the store has run out of toilet paper. 

“From what I can tell, the activity in the store has been a little bit crazier than usual, but not out of control,” Gaskin said. “We actually had some (toilet paper) until about yesterday (Wednesday).” 

The rush didn’t happen immediately like other major retailers in the area. 

“We’re a smaller store off the beaten path and not known very well,” Gaskin said. “But all of a sudden word got out that we have toilet paper.”

Once the word got out, it didn’t take long for South End Market to run out of toilet paper as well. Gaskin said the information he’s received from suppliers is that wholesalers are strained because people are buying toilet paper in masses. 

“If I order 10 cases of toilet paper, they might only send me one or two cases instead of 10 because that toilet paper is on allocation,” Gaskin said. “Tonight (Thursday) when my order shows up, I don’t know what I’m getting.”

Despite the uncertainties with the toilet paper situation, Gaskin said he doesn’t want to add to the grocery store panic.  

“I want to help people to understand that if there’s no panic buying, we can keep things in supply and trucks will keep going,” Gaskin said. “I don’t think there’s a reason to panic, but I also appreciate the steps being taken to slow the spread of the virus.”

Rachel Jensen is the public relations and communications manager for Macey’s, a major grocery retailer in Provo. She said the store’s teams are reaching out to all possible suppliers to restock toilet paper and other items.

“We know how important we are to the community and the supplies we have. We take that very seriously and we want to always do whatever we can to be prepared,” Jensen said. “Our teams were stocked and ready, but they’re just continuing to try and meet that demand.”

Jensen also believes it’s important for people to remain as calm as possible. “As a company, we’ve worked on this for six weeks so we can be prepared. We are trying to make sure there isn’t a disruption in our community.

Smith’s Food and Drug is another popular grocery store for Provo residents. Smith’s is managed by Kroger, a major retailer based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Universe reached out to the head of media relations over Utah and surrounding states and received a press release in response.

The release stated Smith’s has limited the number of cold, flu and sanitary products per order to ensure that everyone has access to affordable food items and essentials.

“Our supply chain teams are working to ensure that the food, medicine and cleaning supplies our customers need are reaching our stores as quickly as possible and are available through our pickup, delivery and ship services,” the statement reads.

Smith’s also activated their preparedness plan several weeks ago and is continuing to monitor the situation.

“We’re following guidance from federal, state and local agencies, including the CDC and other health organizations,” the statement reads.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert addressed the panic and anxiety among Utah citizens on Thursday.

“I hope people will be reasonable and rational,” Herbert said in a press conference. “There are areas where we are overreacting. For example, our water supplies are good and abundant. Stockpiling water in your home is probably not a necessary thing.”

The state also recommended a range of safety measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

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