EVERETT — Social distancing was a shopping-cart apart at the Everett Costco, where a line wrapped around the building Tuesday.
The warehouse allowed in a maximum of 200 shoppers at a time. When 30 left, a happy herd of 30 were let in.
First-comers got toilet paper. The rest had to make do with paper towels, limited to one pack per customer.
There was no wait to get in at the Everett QFC on Broadway. The store had toilet paper on the shelves early Tuesday but was only allowing one pack of the Kroger-brand tissue per person. Hand sanitizer, of course, was sold out. There were purchase limits on diapers and various other items.
It has come to that, and for a good reason: Public health officials warn of the dangers of hoarding hygiene products.
“Before you sweep the store aisles clean of these items, you might want to remind yourself of the harm you’re causing to yourself and your community by overstocking,” the state Department of Health wrote in a news release. “The more you overstock those supplies, the less is available for your sick neighbors, and for doctors, dentists, and emergency response personnel. Doing our part to keep vulnerable people healthy includes making sure they have access to necessary supplies.”
If nothing else, look at it this way: You want the person touching the gas pump, PIN pads, delivery bags and other surfaces to also have clean hands, right?
Grocers say consumer overstocking, not a disrupted supply chain, is the main reason shelves are empty of many supplies and food items.
“We want the public to be assured that if they will return to their normal pace of grocery shopping that there will be an adequate supply of products for their consumption,” Jan Gee, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association, said in a statement.
It’s not only in the United States that people are overstocking. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesusq warned against it in this week’s global press conference.
If your garage is a “Momco” of free supplies for your grown kids, then fine. But if you are hoarding for only yourself, not fine.
Need a job?
Many groceries are hiring to keep up with demand.
Before you head out to the market, check if it’s open. Store hours have been adjusted to clean and stock.
And, please, don’t take the roll of toilet paper from the restroom of the store.
The panic buying spurred the obsession over toilet paper, which has also provided a much-needed comic relief during these times.
Bottled water is another shopping craze. Health officials say tap water supplies are fine.
The best way to protect yourself from infection is through good hygiene and limiting contact with others. That includes not going to the grocery store every day to buy toilet paper that you don’t need.
The state health department has a call center to answer questions: Call 800-525-0127 and press #.
Kevin Clark and Sue Misao contributed to this story.