As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread in the U.S. and beyond, many concerned citizens have been flocking to grocery stores to stock up on necessities.
Items such as hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, non-perishable food items, toilet paper, cold medicine and more have been flying off the shelves faster than some stores can replenish them, leaving many shelves empty and customers in need.
That’s why some stores across the U.S. have begun to limit the amount of virus-related products customers can buy at one time, including large retailers such as Target, Kroger and Costco.
A representative from Target told PEOPLE on Wednesday that product quantity limitations had been added nationwide over the weekend, communicated to shoppers by signs that read, “Due to high demand and to support all guests, we will be limiting the quantities of disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and hand & face wipes to 6 per guest.”
On Tuesday, Target’s CEO, Brian Cornell, released a statement on the Target website detailing the company’s actions, writing that these measures will “allow more guests to get what they need.” He noted that as “demand for cleaning products, medicine, pantry stock-up items and more remains high, we’re sending more products to our stores as quickly as possible.”
A representative from Kroger alerted PEOPLE to a banner at the top of the Kroger website, telling customers that they too are limiting product quantities. “To support all customers, we will be limiting the number of Sanitization, Cold, Flu and Household Essentials to 5 each per order,” the banner reads, adding, “Your order may be modified at the time of pickup or delivery.”
While representatives from Costco denied a request for comment, PEOPLE can confirm that stores in New York, New Jersey and Virginia are limiting product quantities to two per person for products that have spiked in demand due to the coronavirus, including water, paper towels, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. That said, employees confirmed that many stores are currently sold out of several of these high-demand products.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic on Wednesday, urging world leaders and citizens to take action to help stop the spread of the disease.
As of March 11, there have been 1,015 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., and 31 deaths. Worldwide, there are now 121,545 cases of coronavirus, and 4,373 deaths. The vast majority of cases and deaths had been confined to mainland China until the last two weeks, when a major outbreaks occurred in South Korea, Italy and Iran.
The increase in cases outside of China led the CDC to urge Americans to start preparing for the virus to spread in the U.S. with the “expectation that this will be bad.”
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said in a press briefing on Feb. 25.
Learn more about how the coronavirus is spreading, and how to keep yourself safe, with our updated map of all the cases across the country.
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