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‘It’s busy on Fridays’

LIHU‘E — Health advisories have been triggering a rush of people to retailers across the U.S., all prepping for a potential COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and stripping the shelves of necessities like masks, water and food.

In Hawai‘i, some health officials and leaders of organizations like the Hawai‘i Food Bank are voicing concerns themselves as the state prepares for the chance of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Termed “panic buying,” food bank officials said the worry is people will be stockpiling food for themselves and not donating as much to food banks and charities. Panic buying also leads to empty shelves, tense shopping situations and stores running out of supplies.

In the Lihu‘e Costco parking lot on Friday, Kaua‘i residents Dado Paiste and Ulu Ho‘okano said they did not consider their shopping to be panic buying, but they were stocking up on a few necessities. They stopped to chat with friends after filling their respective shopping carts with bundles of toilet tissue, paper towels, bottled water, canned fruit juices and saimin.

“I don’t know,” Paiste said. “There was this lady buying toilet paper saying they had no more in the back. Other people were buying, so I figured, why not? I can always use.”

Ho‘okano said she heard that the store didn’t know when the next shipment was going to come in, and added a bundle as well.

“They said nobody knows when the next shipment is going to come in,” Ho‘okano said. “And they don’t have any in the back. I can always use. This is about a month’s supply.”

Another anonymous shopper was capitalizing on her children’s visit from the mainland to get a little more of the items she couldn’t handle by herself.

Other shoppers left with carts filled with bags of rice, cereal and dog food.

Costco management had no comment, referring inquiries to their corporate offices.

The Safeway store in Hokulei Village Shopping Center in Puhi was busy, but that’s usual for a Friday, according to Manager Lesah Merritt.

“I don’t know if this is panic buying,” Merritt said. “We have some people who come from Costco after not being able to find what they were looking for. This is Friday, and it’s always busy on Fridays.”

Merritt said the store is well-stocked, and there are no indications of any shipment disruptions.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Merritt said. “There’s the afternoon and evening to go. And tomorrow is Saturday. We’ll see what happens.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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