Many customers searching for a bag of rice, a can of beans, or a roll of toilet paper in Menlo Park grocery stores over the weekend discovered empty shelves.
The reason? Shoppers have been stocking up on staple foods and supplies amid concerns about the spreading coronavirus.
According to the New York Times, experts have suggested that people keep a 30-day supply of household essentials in order to prepare for an outbreak of the virus, sparking many to quickly buy up those items at local stores.
Managers at both Safeways in town – on El Camino Real and at the Sharon Heights Shopping Center – as well as at the Trader Joe’s on Menlo Avenue and the Draeger's Market on University Drive, confirmed that they have been running out of staple items like water, rice, pasta, and toilet paper, as well as health-related items like hand sanitizer and cold medicine.
Menlo Park resident Andrea Gemmet said she was surprised to find dry goods shelves at Safeway empty over the weekend. "The store's pasta aisle was completely cleaned out, as was all its rice on the next aisle," she said.
"Our checker said it's been like that for the past three days, not because of a supply shortage but because people are stockpiling," she said. "It was the same at Trader Joe's. The pasta, rice and beans were wiped out. They'd just gotten a big shipment but shoppers bought it all up."
Symptoms of coronavirus are like the cold or flu, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or up to 14 days after exposure, according to San Mateo County Health, the county's health department.
Dr. Scott Morrow, the chief San Mateo County health officer, said in a press release that the department shares "the concerns of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that we all need to be prepared for COVID-19 to spread within the United States."
He also gave advice on how people should prepare for the virus. "To prevent any illness, follow CDC guidelines including washing your hands frequently, covering your sneeze, and staying home when sick. Also, please dust off your personal emergency plans to make sure you have proper provisions at your home including water, medications, and food."