Sheriff’s deputies were called to a Costco in Chino Hills on Thursday when a crowd of customers became unruly after finding that items such as water, paper towels and toilet paper were out of stock, presumably because of coronavirus-inspired buying, authorities said.
San Bernardino County deputies sent to the store in the 13000 block of Peyton Drive at 10:15 a.m. were told that a large group of customers had become frustrated after learning certain products were not available, department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.
“After speaking with Costco staff and checking with customers, deputies determined no crime occurred,” she said. “No other issues have been reported today.”
There has been a run on supplies at Costco, Walmart and other retailers in response to the coronavirus. Cleaning supplies, water, toilet paper and hand sanitizers are among the items flying off shelves.
But experts have said they don’t see a need now for people to hoard necessities. Officials are particularly worried about people stocking up on face masks, which are in short supply and more urgently needed for medical professionals.
It’s true that people should be prepared for emergencies, whether earthquakes in California or hurricanes in the East. and the coronavirus outbreak may be causing some to finally get serious about assembling an emergency kit. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests having, for instance, a two-week supply of water and food and medicine.
But few experts believe the U.S. is on the brink of the situation in China, where hundreds of millions of people have been under some form of quarantine and only allowed to leave their homes occasionally.
Dr. James Cherry, an infectious disease expert at UCLA, says he already has a supply of food and other essentials for an earthquake. As for stocking up even more in light of the coronavirus outbreak, “I think going out now and stocking up on all kinds of stuff, that doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Cherry said the situation in Washington state, where at least 70 COVID-19 cases have been reported and 11 have died, actually suggests the virus causes only mild symptoms in most people it infects.