US stores start running low on masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and more amid growing fears of coronavirus
- US consumers appear to be stocking up on food and medical supplies.
- US sales of hand sanitizer soared 428% in the week ending January 25, compared to the same period last year, according to Nielsen data.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
US stores are starting to run low on some goods as the threat of coronavirus grows.
Here's what people are seeing at stores across the US.
Fears over the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease called COVID-19, have led to massive spikes in sales of certain goods.
Face masks have seen the biggest increase in sales, prompting global shortages.
Sales increases began appearing in January. US sales of medical masks soared 428% in the week ending January 25, compared to the same week a year ago, according to Nielsen data.
The surge in sales has resulted in complete outages of masks at stores across the US.
Many Home Depot stores have posted signs limiting customers to 10 masks per purchase.
While face masks are flying off shelves, no health organizations are recommending that healthy people wear surgical masks and N95 respirator masks.
Health officials are instead encouraging people to avoid risk of infection by washing their hands frequently and thoroughly.
Officials have also said that healthy people buying masks could worsen shortages and leave medical professionals without appropriate gear.
As one person pointed out on Twitter, the shortages could also leave workers in other professions — such as construction — exposed to harmful substances.
In addition to medical masks, consumers are also stocking up on hand sanitizer, thermometers, oat milk, and toilet paper.
In the week ending January 25, thermometer sales rose 43% and oat milk sales rose 440%, compared to last year.
Cold and flu medicines are also running low in some areas, according to posts on social media.
As retailers are hit with surges in sales of some products, they are simultaneously trying to manage supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus.
These disruptions include the closures of some factories and offices in areas hard hit by the virus.
"Retailers, more than other industries, will experience widespread impact on supply chains," said Shanton Wilcox, US manufacturing lead at PA Consulting.
Some people may be stocking up on goods in anticipation of potential problems around supply chain disruptions.
Others may be stocking up in the event that coronavirus cases spread in their communities and they want to avoid going to public places where they could risk infection.
But don't panic: so far, there are no signs of widespread food shortages in the US.
Some people have reported seeing low inventory of canned foods, rice, and bottled water.
But overall, grocery and convenience stores appear to be pretty well stocked for now.
That could change if the risk of coronavirus continues to grow in the US and people grow increasingly fearful.
"Our greatest enemy right now is not the virus itself. It's fear, rumors and stigma," World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.
"Most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases," he said. "We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities."
Popular on BI
- Close-ups of footage said to show Gabby Petito's van near where a body was found appear to show the rear door closing
- Elon Musk pulled his 'last remaining house' off the market after vowing last year to get rid of nearly all his possessions
- It's never been more clear: companies should give up on back to office and let us all work remotely, permanently
- iPhone with under-screen Touch ID could take even longer than expected
- OnePlus 2.0: OxygenOS and ColorOS to merge into a unified OS starting 2022
- Here’s what experts have to say about Cadbury Dairy Milk’s latest ad that has taken the internet by storm
- The collapse of Evergrande, one of China’s largest home developers, is “not a Lehman moment” but the fear may haunt steel and metal stocks in India
- SBI Cards, Adani Ports, HCL Tech and other top stocks to watch out for on September 21