'It's all gone': Fears over coronavirus fuel panic buying at Bay Area stores

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Saturday, March 14, 2020
'It's all gone': Fears over coronavirus fuel panic buying at Bay Area stores
Bay Area residents are flocking to Costco and other retailers to stock up on food and other household items as concern over the novel coronavirus grows.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- It's a phenomenon that has warehouse stores overwhelmed.

Concern about possible novel coronavirus quarantines has triggered a wave of panic buying that is sweeping the region -- and unlike recent runs on paper products, carts are filling up with non-perishable food.

It's Friday and parking lots at Costco stores across the Bay Area looked more like it was a weekend.

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Shoppers at one location told ABC7 News they were told to expect a one and a half to two hour wait to get inside. Capacity control was instituted and shoppers couldn't go in until another shopper left.

"People are buying mass quantities," said shopper Emma Benatar. "And you know, there is a rational, reasonable amount to buy and you do want to be prepared, but there's also people who are kind of hoarding it 'cause what do you do in an emergency? It's kind of a human response."

Shoppers at the Costco on Senter Road in San Jose agreed this was panic buying.

Carts were overflowing beyond what even once-a-month shoppers typically buy. It frankly scared one shopper as she waited for a cashier.

"After seeing all this, I'm getting scared," said Vishakha Tyagi. "I wasn't scared until I got here. Now I'm thinking I haven't thought of 10 other things and I have two kids at home. It's just hard."

Alondra Cortez won't be working for at least two weeks.

She's a school bus driver, but schools are closing.

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She already spent $300 here the other day and is back again.

"I have three kids at home," she said. "They're not going to be going to school for almost three weeks. We have to feed the kids."

It's no surprise that the shelves were depleted of paper towels and toilet paper, even with limits imposed.

That's even after an earlier run on these goods.

Now the focus seems to be on food with shelf life or that can go into the freezer as people prepare to hunker down if they become sick or face a two-week quarantine.

Aralia and Maya are college housemates.

"I saw a lot of non-perishables being bought," said Maya. "There's like no more beans and rice and stuff. It's all gone," said Aralia.

The packed parking lots and the steady stream of overflowing carts Friday could very well be an indication what others will be doing this weekend.