Long lines, empty shelves: North Jersey supermarkets swarmed amid coronavirus fears

March 13, 2020

Empty shelves, long lines and worried shoppers: the scene at many North Jersey supermarkets as fears of coronavirus grow with every new case.

As the number of presumptive positive cases in the state grows, thousands of concerned residents flooded into supermarkets and pharmacies to get essential items, while others are exploring other avenues to get what they need.

When the store opened, “there were five to seven minutes straight of people just filing in,” Jen Hynes, a Trader Joe’s employee in Clifton, said Friday. “We’re getting produce and our dry grocery trucks every morning. We unloaded everything right away, and they never even got to the shelves.”

When officials announced the state’s first presumptive positive case on March 4, there was a sudden rush to get items such as sanitizers, disinfectants and masks. Less than two weeks after the announcement — with the total amount of cases in the state at 50 as of Friday— those items are back-ordered.

Stores with signs saying “no more masks” or “limit 5 masks per person” were displayed on front doors to tell people either to limit their purchase or not to bother.

Now, the focus has shifted to everyday essentials such as food, water and toiletries. Shopping carts full of toilet paper and paper towels can be seen anxiously pushed by concerned shoppers who are not quite certain of what to expect in the coming weeks.

At the ShopRite of Greater Morristown in Hanover, Denise Addis was stunned by how busy it was.

“The line at ShopRite ends in the middle of the milk aisle. It’s insane,” said Addis, a Morristown resident.

Jersey City resident Natalia, who chose not to give her last name, said the uncertainty surrounding the progression of the pandemic is what is driving her to make sure she has what she needs.

“I just know this is serious, and because we have absolutely zero information on what to expect, I have to make sure my child has enough food for the next couple of weeks,” she said.

Brandon Urias, of Lodi, covers his face with a mask as he exits Costco with what he hopes is enough food for him, his wife and mother-in-law for two weeks. Panic shopping has caused traffic jams to enter the parking lot and long lines to enter the Costco in Teterboro, N.J. on Friday March 13, 2020.

There are varying senses of urgency among shoppers, some buying out of panic and others who just came to pick up their usual groceries and were met with unusual crowds.

“I’m more nervous about everyone else rushing in [to supermarkets] so that there’s no food left when I do need food,” said Kelly Wooldridge of Weehawken. “Everyone else is going crazy and panicking, so I may not be able to get what I need, even though I know the supermarkets are still here.”

Coronavirus:Complete coverage of New Jersey cases and the state’s response

Alternative options

As some shoppers are taking their chances with supermarkets and pharmacies, others are looking online to see if they can get what they want.

On eBay, sanitizers and masks are being advertised for as much as $20 to $40 for bottles that would normally cost less than $10.

On Facebook Marketplace, rolls of toilet paper are for sale at varying prices for various amounts. Posts can be seen advertising four rolls of toilet paper for $10 or 36 rolls for $30.

Ryan Leonard, a 10-year Army veteran from Wall Township, is reaching out on Facebook to sell the in-demand N95 masks and sanitizers.

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Leonard’s company, NJ’s Finest, manufactures medical supplies, clothes and various other products. Leonard said he has been reaching out because he knows that certain products are hard to find in stores and wants to sell to those who are in need at a reasonable price

“It’s been absolute pandemonium,” he said. “In the past 72 hours, I’ve spoken to about 300 people.”

Leonard’s usual clients typically command hundreds of thousands of products, but he is offering packs of masks as few as 20 for $120 — roughly $6 a mask. He will also soon have sanitizer in stock and plans to sell 30-ounce bottles for about $17.

Leonard is well-aware of the price gouging taking place in the state and disparaged any business trying to take advantage of those in need. He said his prices will be comparable to the market value before the outbreak.


You can view the original article here: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2020/03/13/coronavirus-nj-supermarkets-become-hectic-scenes-shoppers/5043386002/