Shoppers met with bare shelves as coronavirus scare grows

Hand sanitizer, dust masks, and toilet paper seem to be the items most in demand

CLARK COUNTY — Head to pretty much any store in Clark County on this Monday and you’ll find plenty of people. But don’t expect to find much in the way of hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, or bottled water.

Signs inform shoppers at the Costco on Andresen Road in Vancouver that toilet paper has been sold out. Photo by Chris Brown
Signs inform shoppers at the Costco on Andresen Road in Vancouver that toilet paper has been sold out. Photo by Chris Brown

Coronavirus Prepper Fever, it seems, has hit Southwest Washington full force.

With cases of COVID-19 surpassing 90 in the United States, and six deaths blamed on the virus in Washington state, many people are taking precautions in case they need to stay home.

At the Costco on Andresen Road, signs warned shoppers that toilet paper was nowhere to be found, while employees apologized for a lack of bottled water. 

At Harbor Freight at Vancouver Plaza, empty shelves greeted anyone hoping to score a prized dust mask or rebreather. It was the same at any other store. Nitrile and latex gloves were also hot commodities, though they could be found.

Dust masks are sold out all over town, including at this Harbor Freight at Vancouver Plaza as people gear up for a possible coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Chris Brown
Dust masks are sold out all over town, including at this Harbor Freight at Vancouver Plaza as people gear up for a possible coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Chris Brown

Despite the impossibility of finding masks anywhere, this reporter didn’t see anyone actually wearing them, though a door checker at Costco said he had seen a few.

Experts say most masks will do nothing to prevent you from catching coronavirus, unless it’s rated N95, though they may help to prevent you from spreading the disease to others.

Barring a letup in the apparent public wariness over this novel coronavirus, hand sanitizer may replace D.B. Cooper as one of the hardest things to find in the Pacific Northwest. 

Even rubbing alcohol was sold out at the Walmart stores in Battle Ground and Woodland, as people resorted to making their own hand sanitizers out of recipes found online

Hand sanitizer was sold out at the Walmart store in Battle Ground on Monday. Photo by Chris Brown
Hand sanitizer was sold out at the Walmart store in Battle Ground on Monday. Photo by Chris Brown

It should be noted that medical professionals say the alcohol content of your hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60 percent in order to be effective. Anything less could fail to kill the virus and leave you vulnerable.

One shopper wondered if hand sanitizer was now a “controlled substance” due to the alcohol it contained.

The rush to stock up may not be without merit, according to experts. Should you be unlucky enough to contract this new disease, or know someone who does, you may be required to remain home until you’re deemed to be clear of the virus.

On Sunday, shoppers reported lines to the back of the store at many area Costco stores. Things weren’t quite as bad on Monday, but employees were still scrambling to clear out empty boxes, especially from aisles with ready-to-eat meals.

How about you? Have you decided to stock up? If so, what items did you get and why? Or do you think this is all overblown and something that will blow over soon? Sound off in the comments below.

Hand sanitizer and hand soap were in short supply at the Vancouver Plaza Target location. Photo by Chris Brown
Hand sanitizer and hand soap were in short supply at the Vancouver Plaza Target location. Photo by Chris Brown
Large bottles of hand sanitizer are set out at the Costco location on Andresen Road in Vancouver. Photo by Chris Brown
Large bottles of hand sanitizer are set out at the Costco location on Andresen Road in Vancouver. Photo by Chris Brown

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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