Coronavirus Fears See Mask, Hand Sanitizer, Water, Toilet Paper Shortages at Costco, Walmart and Target

Fears over the COVID-19 virus have seen home supplies, including face masks, hand sanitizers, disinfectants, water, toilet paper and medication, run out at major retailers and local stores across the country.

Shoppers have been posting images of empty shelves on social media at various retail chains, including Costco, Walmart, Target and Home Depot. Consumers have reported shortages in California, Washington, Minnesota, Hawaii, and New York.

The deadly virus, which was first identified in Wuhan city in the Hubei province of China, has infected more than 89,000 people globally, around 80,000 of which are in China, while 86 have been confirmed in the U.S., according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

According to the CDC, 44 cases in the U.S. were reported to be passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined at sea for around two weeks in Japan after a passenger from Hong Kong was found to have been infected. American evacuees from the ship who were infected were sent to hospitals in the areas surrounding the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.

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This past weekend saw the first two deaths from the virus in the U.S., both of which were reported in Washington state. On Saturday, an infected man in his 70s at a nursing facility near Seattle died, according to a statement by Public Health - Seattle & King County.

The first death in Washington, reported on Friday, was a man in his 50s, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County, said at a press conference on Saturday, CNN reports.

Both patients were treated at a hospital in Kirkland and reported to have had underlying health conditions. There are now 13 confirmed cases in Washington, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, declared a state of emergency on Saturday following the first reported death, instructing all "state agencies and departments to utilize state resources and do everything reasonably possible to assist affected communities responding to and recovering from COVID-19 cases," the governor's office said in a statement.

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"This will allow us to get the resources we need," Inslee said. "This is a time to take common-sense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state. Our state agency directors have been actively preparing since the nation's first case appeared in Snohomish County," he added.

"Washingtonians can be assured we've taken this threat seriously and have been working in collaboration with our healthcare partners to develop plans and procedures to prepare for what could likely be a world-wide pandemic," the governor said.

Costco, California, coronavirus, February 4, 2020
A woman wears a face mask while purchasing bottles of rubbing alcohol at a Costco store in Alhambra, California on February 4, 2020. Getty Images

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned last week the spread of the virus was inevitable, noting "it's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, stated at a press briefing last week.

"We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad," she added.

The American Red Cross issued a statement on Thursday advising residents on ways to "be ready for any emergency" and "prepare in case this new coronavirus risk level increases in the U.S."

"Have a supply of food staples and household supplies like laundry detergent and bathroom items, and diapers if you have small children," the organization said.

"Check to make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of your prescription medications, and have other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins," it added.

Costco, Target, Walmart run out of water, toilet paper, hand sanitizers

The recent deaths and warnings from health authorities have caused a storm of panic across the country, including in Seattle, with locals scrambling to stock up on supplies in the event that they find themselves in lockdown due to the outbreak.

Speaking to Newsweek, a resident of Seattle, Jessica Seu, said: "It's like Armageddon here. It's a bit crazy here. All the stores are out of sanitizers and [disinfectant] wipes and alcohol solution. Costco is out of toilet paper and paper towels. Schools are sending emails about possible closures if things get worse.

"I stocked up my fridge and freezer so I don't have to go out much. [My] kids do have school and after school activities almost every day and I'm concerned about that. Just praying for the best," she said.

Several other residents in Washington have shared images and messages on social media noting the depletion of supplies at retailers including Target and Walmart, in addition to Costco.

"No hand sanitizer left at Walmart, Target or Walgreens today, and lines at least 20 deep at every register. Everyone's preparing for the worst case #coronavirus scenario here in #WA," wrote @xsullengirlx

"People are seriously freaking out about the Corona virus. I've never seen Costco so busy. Even on black Friday or Christmas season. They're out of Kirkland cases of waters, toilet paper, meat in general and other things..." wrote @Jpuma55.

"Costco in Kirkland, WA. Reaction to news of first death to Coronavirus in the State. People in line waiting for shopping carts gathered by workers from the parking lot. Parking lot is full. People are buying out the store," wrote @preznatalia.

"So it's crazy! In Washington state we went to Walmart to buy bleach and they were all out of stock. Same with the hand sanitizer! This coronavirus stuff is really starting to freak me out. Oh, but don't worry! Trump says they have this all under control. Lol right...." wrote @RochelleKnutso2.

"I stocked up weeks ago for this reason. The other day I was in Target to grab a few last-minute items and noted they were almost sold out of BLEACH! Meanwhile, in the rest of the USA...," wrote @lianna_conda.

Suppliers in the Bay Area and other parts of California, where the first case of a community spread (where a person with no known connection to the virus is infected) was reported last week, are reporting a similar scenario.

"No water at the Colma, Ca @Target. People are stocking up on water amid #coronavirus scare. #BayArea #California #Covid19usa #CoronaVirusUpdate @abc7newsbayarea," wrote @agaliciadiaz_.

"Walmart and Target were sooo busy today in San Diego. Many items like water, flu medications , hand sanitizers Sold out . Coronavirus-worried shoppers empty California, Oregon grocery shelves," wrote @Todd_Michael_.

"In California, people are stocking up on essentials, due to fear of the coronavirus. The medication isles are empty here at Target in Pasadena, California !," wrote @BerthaSCastro1.

"My local target. Ive never seen these shelves empty like this. #coronavirus #California," wrote @RidicMadness.

The panic spreads to Minnesota, New York, Hawaii, Washington D.C.

Retailers in other states that have reported a few confirmed cases of the virus, such as New York and Minnesota, as well as those that have yet to report positive cases, such as in Hawaii and Washington D.C., have also been experiencing a supply shortage and surge in customers, with lines forming outside their shops. One Costco chain reported there were 800 people through its doors within 10 minutes of it opening.

"Madness at #Costco as people stock up for the #coronavirus. 800 people through the door in the first 10 minutes of opening." @girlgone_crypto

"We are at #Costco. It's a madhouse. Every cart has like survival essentials and the guy at guest services said every Costco in Hawaii is completely sold out of toilet paper. One guy is stocking up on margaritas and he's who I really want to have nearby when #coronavirus hits." wrote @kldmills.

State health officials in Hawaii have warned residents to "stock up on all prescription medications and other basic household items like food and cleaning products so you can care for yourself and your family at home if someone becomes ill. Supplies of these items may be affected in the event of a pandemic," the Los Angeles Times reports.

"Long lines outside #Costco in #Brooklyn New York #USA" wrote @hereisdavidh.

"Brooklyn, NYC Costco is overrun with shoppers who presumably would like to stock up incase they cannot leave their house due to the coronavirus. #COViD19," wrote @coriiiiiiiiiii1.

"All water sold out Saturday morning, 11am, at Costco in Washington, D.C. Things are not alright. Something is really happening. #coronavirus," wrote @addandtalk.

"Went to Walmart and more than half of the Lysol and Clorox products were gone... this shit is getting real #coronavirus," wrote @Champagneanaaa.

"I'm at Walmart right now. The store is packed. The aisle with toilet paper and disinfectants is filled with employees restocking shelves. There's hardly anyone exiting the store without a pack of toilet paper. Seems like everyone is preparing. #Coronavirus" wrote @SnoringVic.

Customers warned not to buy masks following mass shortages

Many have expressed concern over the supply of face masks running out, including the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams, who said in a post Saturday on the official Twitter account of the U.S. Surgeon General: "Seriously people. STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"

Shoppers reported the same concerns at Home Depot, with workers who need them not being able to access them. One local Home Depot chain imposed a purchase limit of 10 per customer.

"Every single mask wiped out at Home Depot. #coronavirususa #coronavirus #CoronavirusOutbreak," wrote @ollyGmoney.

"Home Depot was out of masks & said due to current events we have a limited supply and this is high key kind of terrifying #coronavirus," wrote @thebluemoon143.

"Hey friends, please don't rush out to Lowe's or Home Depot and buy disposable respirators because you're scared of Coronavirus. I need them for my job, and y'all have cleaned them out," wrote @kwertzy.

"This is serious. People need to NOT buy or wear dust masks from Home Depot for coronavirus. They provide zero protection from viruses, and industrial workers, landscapers, construction workers need them for protection from paint, pollen, dust, sheetrock, other particulates," wrote @CarolinaGirl585.

The the COVID-19 virus has affected at least 89,197 people across more than 50 countries, with South Korea leading the number of confirmed cases outside China (with 4,335 reported cases), followed by Italy, which has seen the largest outbreak in Europe, with 1,694 cases.

Iran has reported the highest death toll outside China, with 54 deaths reported so far, and also has the third largest outbreak outside China, with 978 confirmed cases, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Coronavirus Fears See Mask, Hand Sanitizer, Water, Toilet Paper Shortages at Costco, Walmart and Target | News