Trump holds call with grocery executives as Americans flock to stores

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President Trump held a phone call Sunday with leaders in the grocery, retail and food industries as Americans affected by the global coronavirus pandemic have stressed supply chains across the U.S.

A White House readout of the call indicated that Trump spoke with CEOs of major grocery chains including Whole Foods, Wegmans, Publix and Aldi.

Other executives on the call included the CEOs of Walmart, Costco, Dollar General and food industry leaders such as the head of the Campbell Soup Company and Kraft Heinz.

“The President thanked them for the work they have already done to meet the needs of the public and for their continued commitment to the communities they serve. All of the executives are working hand-in-hand with the Federal Government, as well as State and local leaders, to ensure food and essentials are constantly available,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

Trump made an appearance later Sunday in the White House briefing room, where he urged Americans to only purchase what they need.

“You don’t have to buy so much. Take it easy, just relax,” he said. “We’re doing great. It all will pass.”

His comments came just hours after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he thinks Americans “should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing.”

Trump and Vice President Pence said grocery stores have assured the administration that they will remain open as normal, other than in some cases reducing hours to allow for thorough cleaning and restocking. 

Pence added that the executives indicated they would continue contributing to local food banks despite the growing demand due to the pandemic.

News of Trump’s call with food and grocery industry leaders also came as reports have emerged in the media of some Americans and companies price-gouging and hoarding supplies such as hand sanitizer amid fears of a worsening outbreak in the U.S.

“The President reminded the participants that this is an all-of-America approach and each of their stores and the stores they support can help Americans feel calm and safe when shelves are stocked with the items they need. Supply chains in the United States are strong, and it is unnecessary for the American public to hoard daily essentials,” Deere added.

Retailers including Amazon have taken steps to fight price gouging from sellers in recent weeks, though many brick-and-mortar stores have reportedly fallen victim to hoarders buying large quantities of goods for the purpose of resale.

The coronavirus outbreak has sickened thousands of people in the U.S., while dozens of deaths have been reported, mostly in the state of Washington.

Brett Samuels contributed

Updated on March 16 at 8:57 p.m.

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