Virus fear sends products flying off shelves

Grant D. Crawford | Daily Press

The shelves where hand sanitizer is usually stocked at Reasor's Foods was empty Thursday, as concerns over the coronavirus have increased the demand of cleaning supplies in the U.S.

TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma – Widespread panic over the coronavirus has prompted residents here to make a run on stores, culminating in a shortage of disinfectant supplies.

The World Health Organization has labeled COVID-19 as a pandemic, and President Donald Trump announced a travel ban to 26 European countries. Other states have decided to close schools down, and multiple national sports leagues have been suspended.

The slate of news on the virus outbreak has spurred the public to grocery stores to stock up on cleaning items and toilet paper, and several Tahlequah businesses were out of products like hand sanitizer on Thursday.

“When people start seeing all of that, they start stocking up,” said Dean Kern, at Reasor’s Foods.

Due to the demand of hand sanitizer, Reasor’s has been limited on how much it can order. There has also been a reduction in availability of other products like toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, but they are currently still in supply.

“Toilet paper is not as bad, but the hand sanitizers, and the air masks, and the sanitizing wipes are touch-and-go right now,” said Kern. “We ordered in hand sanitizer and we probably got 10 to 15 percent of what we ordered. Basically, as soon as they hit the shelf, people were wiping them out.”

Kern said the stock of water was diminished earlier in the week, but the store never completely ran out of it. While customers might not be able to find their favorite brand of toilet paper, other brands are available. The store also recently received more Lysol disinfectant sprays.

At the Tahlequah Walmart, a manager said the store is “light” on hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and wipes, but it has not yet run out. The Walmart media relations team has announced the store is working on replenishing its stock of paper products and cleaning supplies, and managers have been authorized to limit sales quantities on items in high demand.

“We will continue to monitor the development of the coronavirus situation globally and are closely following official recommendations while working with our suppliers to understand and mitigate any supply chain disruptions,” Walmart said in a statement to the Daily Press. “Providing customers with the products they want, and need remain our focus.”

According to Save A Lot Manager Rod Taylor, the store was out of hand sanitizer Thursday. However, paper products and cleaning supplies were still on the shelves.

At least three of the Dollar General locations in Tahlequah also ran out of hand sanitizer this week. The stores on Reasor Street, Downing Street, and Choctaw Street were all out of that product, but they had toilet paper and disinfectant wipes.

On Thursday afternoon, a Tahlequah school board member posted on Facebook that Walgreens still had some of the popular products in stock.

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