As confirmed COVID-19 cases increase across the United States, people are panic-buying food and supplies.
As of March 11, there have been more than 1000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the majority have been tested in Washington state and California. 32 have died of the disease.
News of the deaths has alarmed many Americans who have begun to stockpile supplies from prominent grocery stores, including Kroger and Costco.
Shoppers are gobbling up canned goods, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and disinfectants. According to marketing firm Catalina, hand sanitizer sales have increased 619 percent between Feb. 24 and March 1. The figure is 836 percent in Washington.
In turn, outlets have instituted limits on individual shoppers in order to prevent supplies from being rapidly depleted.
Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard A. Galanti stated in a Q2 earning report on March 5 that "It's been a little crazy this past week in terms of outside shopping frequency and sales levels, and not only in the United States."
The recommendations about stocking up vary among health experts and government officials. The consumer shift towards panic buying appears to contradict the explicit advice from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC Director Robert R. Redfield on Thursday reported to a U.S. congressional hearing that there is no need for healthy Americans to stock up on any supplies, as reported by Reuters.
But in the lead-up to a pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommended stocking up a "two-week supply of food and water,” including nonperishable foods, as well as maintaining stocks of nonprescription drugs.