Coronavirus concerns mean empty shelves in local stores

The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has sent consumers to emptying the shelves of stores and pharmacies of their hand sanitizer, cleaning products and cold and flu medicines as if they were preparing for a major weather event.

The virus has spread across the globe with the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that there are over 80,000 cases of the virus in China alone with nearly 3,000 deaths. Washington alone has reported (as of March 3) 27 confirmed cases and nine deaths.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and big department stores like Target, Walmart and Costco are struggling to keep their shelves stocked with in-demand items such as hand sanitizer, tissues, cold and flu medicine and cleaning supplies.

CVS Pharmacy issued a press release Feb. 28 noting that it would be monitoring the outbreak and is collaborating with its partners at the CDC as well as working to make sure their shelves are restocked as soon as possible.

“Through the work of the CVS Health Emergency Response & Resiliency Team and Infectious Disease Response Team, we continue to actively monitor the current international and domestic environment for coronavirus-related risks and prepare accordingly. Specifically, these teams are collaborating with partners across the enterprise to help bolster business unit preparation and continuity, with a focus on meeting the needs of the consumers and other customers we serve, if and when warranted. Developing travel, work from home, and other HR-related guidance to help employees stay safe and healthy. Working with external public health and other stakeholders, including the CDC, to boost awareness of CVS Health’s emergency preparedness efforts and capabilities,” reads the release.

At the same time, Walmart put out a memo to its U.S. associates about COVID-19 as well, assuring its employees and customers that it will continue to monitor the situation.

The company has set up an Emergency Operations Center and is working closely with the CDC to help respond appropriately to the virus by addressing the needs of each of its stores and adjusting business operations as needed.

“There has been a lot of information in the news about face masks, and it is important to understand face masks are not recommended by CDC for general use. The best uses for face masks as identified by CDC are for those who are sick to avoid spreading to others and by health workers and caregivers who are taking care of someone in a close setting,” reads a release from Walmart.

The Herald has reached out to other stores to understand how they are responding to the spread of the virus and when high-demand items will be restocked, but has received no response.

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