By this point in the coronavirus crisis, any Bay Area resident who has been to a grocery store over the past few weeks knows the scene: Long lines. Anxious customers. Empty shelves.
As the total number of coronavirus cases in California has risen to 1,849 and Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order on Thursday evening, the grocery stores remain both busy and with curtailed supply, with staples like dry goods and toilet paper especially hard to find.
But as the image of an empty grocery store shelf is quickly becoming a symbol of the coronavirus saga, one San Mateo County supervisor says he has a solution: Limit the number of items customers can purchase at one time.
In a statement sent out on March 17, county Supervisor David Canepa lamented the grocery store “hoarding,” saying he was concerned that it “jeopardizes the health and safety of our most vulnerable residents.”
"This is unacceptable,” Canepa said in a written statement. “I will propose legislation to mandate purchase limits to no more than four items during the COVID-19 shelter in place order. We can get through this if we consider that the needs of our neighbors are equal to our own needs. Selfishness and greed put lives at risk."
Canepa’s policy adviser Bill Silverfarb confirmed that the supervisor’s office has drawn up a resolution regarding grocery store hoarding, which Canepa is considering going forward with. However, Silverfarb added, it remains undecided whether the supervisor will introduce the legislation or if another solution may be found.
He said that solution may come in the form of discussions with the California Grocers Association, who may devise another way to mitigate the dwindling grocery store shelves.
“We are talking with the state grocers association now,” Silverfarb said. “We will know more in the coming days.”
Meanwhile, The Almanac contacted the offices of supervisors Don Horsley and Warren Slocum for their thoughts on Canepa’s potential anti-hoarding legislation.
“Interesting, but I suspect that the store is in a better position to limit purchases,” Horsley said.
Slocum did not respond for comment by press time.