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COVID-19 Surge: New Wave Of Panic Buying Empties Bay Area Grocery Shelves

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) - A new wave of panic buying is coinciding new COVID restrictions, a dramatic surge in cases, and traditionally, the busiest time of year for grocery stores.

It was a familiar scene: empty shelves in the paper product aisles and the cleaning supplies section at a Target on Coleman Avenue, in San Jose.

Same story at another Target on North First Street. Paper towels were going fast at a Whole Foods in San Francisco

"I think it's ridiculous, honestly," said Esmeralda Tovar of San Jose. "I think you know if... that's what we're after - toilet paper - that's insane."

Magdalena Brown of San Jose didn't get her hands on any such supplies Tuesday evening. She's still working with the items she bought in bulk a few months ago.

"I'm not worried, but I do think people are probably panicked because there's a rumor going around that there might be another shutdown," said Brown. "So you don't know, I think people just want to be prepared, and it's the holidays, so it brings out the worst in some people too."

In different parts of the country, from Southern California to Chicago, where a stay-at-home order is in effect, people are hoarding toilet paper and groceries.

"The supply should be plentiful, so there's no reason to overbuy or to hoard," said California Grocers Association CEO Ron Fong.

Fong says supermarkets are well-prepared for Thanksgiving shoppers.

To help prevent the spread of the virus, shoppers should consider visiting stores during off-peak hours, utilize online shopping, and avoid stores the few days before thanksgiving altogether, if possible.

"The trick now is to try and keep our capacity at the grocery stores to a minimum," said Fong.

At family-run Zanotto's Market this evening, they had plenty of toilet paper and cooking essentials.

"Look at us right now, everyone's panicking again," said Joel Birchard of San Jose. "No reason for this to be happening in the first place, but here we are."

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