(CBS Detroit) — Shortages of toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies are starting to show up across the country again. With COVID-19 cases rising, consumers are starting to hoard toilet paper as they did during the first coronavirus wave back in the spring. The situation has yet to reach those levels but could if the health situation worsens and panic rises.
Officials at Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, said earlier this week that supply chains have not kept pace with increasing demand, and stocking these goods consistently has grown more challenging with steadily increasing virus case loads. “We do see big differences, depending on the communities that you’re in,” Walmart US CEO John Furner said on a call with analysts Tuesday after Walmart reported its quarterly earnings. “The specific categories where we have the most strain at the present time would be bath tissue and cleaning supplies.”
Walmart has not imposed limits on toilet paper purchases yet, but other retailers have. Kroger customers can only buy bath tissue and paper towels two packs at a time. Giant grocery stores in the Northeast recently began limiting purchases of large toilet paper and paper towel packs to one and smaller sizes to four.
Christopher Brand, a Giant spokesperson, said that the company was “seeing little evidence of stockpiling, and there is no need to create panic.” But the supply chain “remains challenged.”
San Jose, California has seen a new wave of panic buying which coincides with new COVID restrictions and a dramatic surge in cases, at what is traditionally the busiest time of year for grocery stores. Fear of a shutdown isn’t helping. Multiple Targets had empty shelves in the paper product aisles and the cleaning supplies section. Paper towels were also selling out at a Whole Foods in San Francisco.
Retailers have stressed that there is no shortage and no need to panic. A company spokesperson for Giant Eagle, a grocery store chain in the Pittsburgh area, said each location has been receiving daily deliveries of household and grocery items. The company has been strengthening partnerships with current suppliers and working with new and alternate suppliers to maintain a strong stock position.
Some parts of the country aren’t experiencing the rush on toilet paper and cleaning supplies, at least not yet. Local grocery stores and at least one Costco in Queens, a borough of New York, had full shelves earlier this week. Maybe not coincidentally, New York City also has some of the lowest COVID positivity rates in the country. When cases in the city spiked back in the spring, store shelves were empty of toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies.
The United States set COVID-19 records last week for four days in a row, with more than 184,000 cases reported Friday and over 68,000 people hospitalized with the virus. An average of over 1,100 Americans have died of the virus per day last week. Officials across the country continue to announce new, more restrictive measures in response to the surge. The upward trend in cases is expected to continue with cold weather and the holiday season approaching.