With COVID-19 cases increasing, panic buying worries begin anew

This time markets, suppliers and even consumers are saying they are ready.

By Gene Wickham, Staff Writer

Panic buying is being mitigated by the market chains, warehouses, truckers and weary shoppers. (Photo by Gene Wickham/The Valley Star)

In the next couple of months, the holiday season is expected to be during the worst COVID-19 spike yet and the store shelves are showing signs of panic buying as it did in March; Los Angeles County continues to reach daily records with almost 9,000 infections and over 40 deaths in one day.


The concern for their health and safety has some shoppers buying for the long term while others are heeding the market's advice to buy just what they need. Grocers insist the food supply chain is strong and the warehouses are full. Even so, Kroger — a major national brand grocery chain that also owns Ralphs in California — posted a letter on Nov. 10 outlining their plans to limit purchases of certain products.


"To ensure all customers have access to what they need, we've proactively and temporarily set purchase limits to two per customer on certain products, including bath tissue, paper towels, disinfecting wipes and hand soap," a Kroger spokesperson said in a statement.


Kroger, Walmart and H-E-B in Texas and numerous local stores are becoming proactive with maintaining their stock. Brand name paper products like Scott or Brawny are being supplemented with off brands or the store’s own labels. Cleaning supplies like Lysol or Clorox are in low supply, but more off brands and store brands are being added to help with the shortage. Milk, eggs, canned green beans, Top Ramen and Cup Noodles are some of the foods with purchase limits.


In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initiation of an evening curfew — and a new stay-at-home order — has many concerned. Since Nov. 20, people have been protesting the curfew and criticizing Newsom for his strong-arm tactics. The curfew, scheduled for at least three weeks, stipulates all restaurants, bars, wineries will need to close between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., as well as close their indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants can still offer takeout and drive thru. People in Huntington Beach have been protesting the curfew while Pasadena has generally ignored the curfew because they have their own health department.


Enforcement has not been specifically arranged, according to LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva who commented on FOX news.


“At this time no law enforcement input or assistance has been requested,” he said. “But we continue to remain committed to public safety and are here to assist the community.”


At the moment, stores are maintaining their late-night schedules with Ralphs staying open until 2 a.m. In March, stores needed to close around 8 p.m. in order to have time to restock their shelves.


At a Sherman Oaks Ralphs, a week before Thanksgiving, some of the paper goods were depleted and cleaning supplies were removed, replaced with cash register coupons to control the purchase limits.


Carol Matthews, from the University of Florida, has described the hoarding mentality in a recent issue of the Florida news site, The Conversation.


“While stockpiling is planned, panic buying is an impulsive and temporary reaction to anxiety caused by an impending crisis,” she said. “Panic buying may also include purchasing enormous quantities of a particular item, in volumes that will never be needed, or emptying a store shelf of that item.”


Grocers feel confident about their plans and are optimistic about the next few months. According to South Coast Today, Brian Houghton, a senior vice president of government affairs for the Massachusetts Food Association, has expressed optimism about the food supply in the next few months.


“Do you really need 50 pounds of steak in your freezer? And think of your neighbor who might need it too,” he said. “I think everyone learned a lot from that first time at the beginning of the pandemic.”

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