Prepare, but don’t hoard; coronavirus clears store shelves

SPOKANE, Wash. — Concerns around the coronavirus have people stocking up. You may have seen store shelves cleaned out. Most of our local supermarkets have run out of hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes. Other stores are selling out of masks and rubber gloves.

Is this proper preparation or panic shopping? There is a difference between stocking your home and hoarding. Health experts want you have the items you need, without depriving others of the medical necessities they need.

So is this an overreaction or an act of preparedness? It depends on what you’re buying.

For example, face masks and N95 masks. The U.S. Surgeon General said people in good health don’t need one.

“It becomes sort of a hoarding situation, and the people who need them then will not potentially be able to access them and that’s not what we want to see,” said Betsy Bertelsen, an epidemiologist at Spokane Regional Health District.

The people who need masks are those who work in healthcare, or people that doctors believe need extra protection.

“I don’t want anyone to panic. It is a serious situation. But the risk to the general population is still considered to be low,” Bertelsen said.

If you want to stock up, health experts said to buy your family’s necessities.

“Everyday things in your home, in case there is a time when people do need to be home for a period of time,” Bertelsen said.

But even some of those items are going fast.

4 News Now’s sister station, KAPP-KVEW, said the Costco Wholesale store in Kennewick sold 4,800 cases of bottled water in just two hours. The store also sold out of bottled water, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Kirkland paper towels, disinfectant spray and wipes.

Spokane stores are looking bare as well, as of Tuesday.

4 News Now went to My Fresh Basket in Kendall Yards. They still have wipes, but hand sanitizer is completely sold out. At the Walgreens on Grand Boulevard, shelves have been cleared of all disinfectant wipes and sprays are starting to go, too. The Rite Aid on 29th Avenue has been wiped clean of hand sanitizer and wipes. Rubber gloves and rubbing alcohol are also sparse along the aisle.

Stores typically get shipments weekly, so you can always check back to see if they got new inventory. Your best bet if you can’t buy sanitizer is to just wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap.