Unlike a blizzard, it’s not a matter of digging your way out of the house, explained Leeann Dunaway as she packed groceries into her car.
The Salem, New Hampshire, resident visited Market Basket for certain staples she needed in regular shopping on a recent afternoon. The lines were longer than normal as people shopped for groceries days after the new coronavirus, commonly called COVID-19, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.
“If one of us gets sick in my house, it’s both of us quarantined,” Dunaway said.
She’s pretty secure with her in-home supply, and could reach to the back of her cabinets as needed.
“I think everyone has enough for two weeks other than milk, bread and wine,” she said.
Visits to Market Baskets in Salem, the Stop & Shop in Andover and the Hannafords in Londonderry showed only a few rolls of toilet paper, paper towel and boxes of pasta were left on the shelves. As customers packed the stores, waiting in line, each register was open and employees were stocking shelves.
While shopping at Market Basket, Joe Mass of Salem, New Hampshire, overheard an employee on the loudspeaker clarifying a rumor that Market Baskets were closing over the weekend to restock was not true.
Customers say they usually save their shopping for the end of the week, and wanted to go before the weekend when they predict lines will be longer.
Isabelle Langois of Derry went to Hannafords in Londonderry one recent morning to beat the weekend rush.
She bought extra food for her children “just in case school might be closed, and I don’t want to have to go out and be in contact with others if I don’t have to,” she said. Langois works in the medical field as a lab technician who does testing, and while she isn’t particularly afraid of getting the virus, she wants to minimize contact with others to stop the spread.
“It makes sense as a society we should do this out of respect for other people,” she said. “I’m worried about people, not the virus.”
Al Cozzone of Derry was shopping at the same store late last week to pick up extra water and fruit for his elderly mother. He decided to venture to the grocery store, not allowing her to go, because he has the stronger immune system.
“My concern is being infected and not knowing, then infecting others,” he said.
Market Basket has seen an increase in the sale of canned goods, rice, pasta, canned tuna, hand sanitizer and paper goods, store spokeswoman Meghan Post said.
Thomas Spitalare of Methuen had to go to three different Market Baskets to find hand sanitizer last week. One morning he spent 45 minutes in line at the Pleasant Valley Market Basket to get some groceries, he said.
“It looked more like the morning of Christmas Eve than the 13th of March,” he said, adding that there were almost no parking spots left in the lot.
Karen Madigan of Andover had to visit two Market Baskets to find toilet paper late last week, after she ran out at home. While she was shopping, she also stocked up on a few extra kitchen staples.
“I don’t believe in over-buying,” she said. However, “I don’t want to have to go out if I don’t have to.”
Grocery stores are trying to keep up with the demand from customers.
“Market Basket has a close relationship with its suppliers and can control the supply,” Post said. “They are doing their best (at every store) to keep up with demand.”
At Stop & Shop in Andover, the company issued this statement: “Our team is in close contact with suppliers and is working diligently to try to keep high-demand products in stock like hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, paper towels, toilet tissue as well as bleach and other cleaning products. In some cases, these products are in very limited supply across the U.S. As soon as the products become available in the marketplace, we’re moving quickly to re-stock our shelves and make them available to you.''
At the stores, there were also signs for customers on sanitizing wipe dispensers asking people to take one to sanitize their baskets and leave others for customers.
Each store is asking employees to prevent the spread of the virus as well. Market Basket has increased the sanitizing program at all locations, Post said, adding that employees are being asked to wash hands more frequently.
At Stop & Shop “We’ve ramped up our already thorough processes to sanitize high-touch areas, and our associates are wiping down checkout areas including the belts and pin pads even more frequently with disinfectant,'' the company said in its statement. "Our associates are also conducting hand washing at more frequent intervals as well as using hand sanitizer on a regular basis.''