As coron­avirus fears spread, some shop­pers stock­ing up

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Thy Vo

For many shop­pers this week­end, a rou­tine trip to Costco re­quired brav­ing an­other kind of crowd: peo­ple snatch­ing up sup­plies in fear of find­ing them­selves in coron­avirus-re­lated iso­la­tion.

As more cases of the new virus, known of­fi­cially as novel coron­avirus or COVID-19, are con­firmed in the United States, peo­ple in the Bay Area ap­pear to be flock­ing to gro­cery and whole­sale stores to stock up on dry foods, toi­let pa­per, dis­in­fect­ing wipes and other goods.

At a Costco Whole­sale store in Santa Clara off Coleman Av­enue, many shop­pers came for their usual Sun­day trip, while oth­ers ex­ited the store with shop­ping carts or flatbed hand trucks stacked with cases of wa­ter, toi­let pa­per, pet food and other dry goods.

Wally McGee pushed a flatbed cart with one hand, piled with toi­let pa­per and pa­per tow­els, through the park­ing lot. With his other hand, the fa­ther of two dragged a shop­ping cart laden with di­a­pers, in­stant oat­meal, break­fast crack­ers and boxed mac­a­roni and cheese.

McGee de­cided to stock up for his fam­ily and his in-laws af­ter hear­ing from fam­ily in Tracy that the Costco in their area was run­ning low on sup­plies.

“I have kids, so if some­thing hap­pens, I don’t want to go out,” said McGee on Sun­day af­ter­noon, wear­ing an N95 face mask. (Fed­eral health of­fi­cials say healthy peo­ple do not need to wear masks, which are most ef­fec­tive at pre­vent­ing sick peo­ple from spread­ing their ill­ness.)

Martha Vil­lanueva, a San Jose res­i­dent who was mak­ing her usual Costco trip to buy cat food, said cus­tomers were quickly clear­ing the shelves of bot­tled wa­ter, toi­let pa­per and dis­in­fec­tant.

“I think peo­ple are cre­at­ing their own panic,” said Vil­lanueva. “We did buy an­other pack of toi­let pa­per — but we’re half­way through the one at home.”

Most of the more than 80,000 con­firmed cases of coron­avirus are in main­land China, where the virus orig­i­nated. But the disease has quickly spread in coun­tries like Iran, South Korea and Italy, prompt­ing a sober­ing warn­ing from the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol last week urg­ing Amer­i­cans to pre­pare for an out­break as cases ap­peared in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia and other parts of the na­tion.

Peo­ple seem to have been stock­ing up since that an­nounce­ment, said Abel Zu­niga, the as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager for a Costco on Sen­ter Road in San Jose.

Be­cause of in­creased de­mand, the store has had to stock more shelf-sta­ble items like toi­let pa­per, pa­per tow­els, wa­ter, canned food, rice and noo­dles, said Zu­niga.

“It’s been go­ing on for four days now,” said Zu­niga. “It’s not just Cost­cos in San Jose, but the en­tire re­gion.”

It was also a busy week­end for pub­lic health of­fi­cials in the United States.

On Sun­day, of­fi­cials con­firmed five new cases in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia: three in Santa Clara County, bring­ing the to­tal cases to seven, and two health care work­ers who fell ill af­ter they were ex­posed to a pa­tient in Solano County.

Ear­lier in the day, Rhode Is­land con­firmed its first case of coron­avirus in a per­son in their 40s who trav­eled to Italy in mid-Fe­bru­ary.

Wash­ing­ton state on Satur­day con­firmed two cases of coron­avirus, in­clud­ing a man from the

Seat­tle area who died, the first death from the ill­ness in the U.S.

Santa Clara County also con­firmed its third and fourth cases of coron­avirus on Fri­day and Satur­day. The third case in­volved a woman who was hos­pi­tal­ized for the ill­ness with­out hav­ing trav­eled to China or hav­ing con­tact with some­one who has. A woman who lived with her, who did not show symp­toms, be­came the county’s fourth case.

Of­fi­cials Satur­day said the risk to the gen­eral pub­lic is still low, but older and med­i­cally frag­ile in­di­vid­u­als are at higher risk if the disease con­tin­ues to spread.

That’s why C. Rogers, a Santa Clara res­i­dent, was at the Santa Clara Costco on Sun­day, wear­ing an N-95 face mask and push­ing a cart stacked with sev­eral cases of bot­tled wa­ter.

The 82-year-old Santa Clara res­i­dent said she’s par­tic­u­larly wor­ried now that Santa Clara County has four con­firmed cases of the virus.

“I had to look around town and come here three times be­fore I could get wa­ter, and fi­nally I got wa­ter to­day,” said Rogers.

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