Grocery store shelves empty in Montgomery amidst coronavirus

Updated: Mar. 14, 2020 at 9:15 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There has been one confirmed case of the coronavirus in Montgomery County, and after health officials say they anticipate the virus spreading quickly in the coming weeks, locals are stocking up with supplies if they need be quarantined.

Household items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and bleach are flying off the shelves. Customers are desperate to stash up, leaving stores in Montgomery noticeably empty.

"There is no toilet paper on the shelves so I just got the paper towels and hopefully that will suffice," said Walmart shopper Vanessa Ball.

Some families are even having to preorder their toilet paper because it is such a hot commodity.

“I feel lucky and probably like we need to get it in the car before we’re mugged or something for toilet tissue,” said Walmart shopper Steven Smith.

But toilet paper isn’t the only supply running out, says Renfroe’s Market Store Manager Clark Psalmonds.

“Disinfecting sprays, wipes, sanitizers are unheard of right now,” said Psalmonds. “You can’t find a sanitizer nowhere in the area.”

Shelves at Sam's Club in Montgomery Sunday.
Shelves at Sam's Club in Montgomery Sunday.(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Shelves at Sam's Club in Montgomery Sunday.
Shelves at Sam's Club in Montgomery Sunday.(Source: WSFA 12 News)

So is all of this necessary? Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control, yes.

The CDC says you should have enough household items and groceries on hand in the event of needing to be home for a long time. That includes necessary prescription medications and over-the-counter medical supplies. This is because most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.

The problem is, local stores are having a hard time keeping up with the demand, but they are assuring customers they are doing everything they can to restock quickly.

"We made some accommodations, all of my items as far as my paper towel, my tissue and everything I got secondary displays on it, on the other side of the store to try and help support what they clean out on this side over here, so we are trying to stay on top of it," said Psalmonds.

Publix is temporarily closing its stores at 8 p.m., instead of the usual 10 p.m., so they have time to sanitize and restock shelves. Other stores are also doing the same.

Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Christina Thornton says people are not overreacting, they are in a state of panic, and that the EMA’s job is to remind people to prepare.

“There are people that are taking this seriously the way that we should. This is a virus that we do not have a vaccine for, it is not just the flu,” said Thornton.

Thornton says the most important thing to remember is not the toilet paper.

“Have what you need, and wash your hands with soap and water that’s the biggest thing is that lathering to remove the germs,” said Thornton.

She also says social distancing is key in helping prevent the spread of the virus. If you do not need to be in a crowded area, avoid it.

Copyright 2020 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.