Shelves emptied of disinfectant wipes await restocking as fears grow around coronavirus. Around the country, legions of nervous hoarders are stocking up on canned goods, frozen dinners, toilet paper and cleaning products. Such hoarding is expected to last for weeks and has created big challenges for discounters and grocery stores. (Photo: Bebeto Matthews/ Associated Press)
Photo: Bebeto Matthews
Photo: Bebeto Matthews

Stores run out of hand sanitizer and face masks, but still have soap

For anyone looking for hand sanitizer on store shelves today, consider it a lost cause.

Face masks? Keep dreaming.

Bleach wipes? Difficult, but not impossible.

In a measure of the fear and frenzy gripping communities over the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, metro Atlantans have stripped local stores of germ-fighting products like Clorox disinfecting wipes and Purell hand gel. The run has affected big box retailers, pharmacies, groceries, office supply stores and discount stores, a check of inventories this weekend found.

As for medical masks, one might have better luck finding a Baby Yoda doll. They’ve completely vanished from shelves despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising that masks are of little help in repelling respiratory diseases such COVID-19 for most healthy people. At both a Cobb County Walmart and a Dunwoody Target, even all the dust masks in hardware sections had been snatched up.

“This is a big time of anxiety, and we know the biggest source of anxiety is uncertainty,” said Stewart Shankman, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University. “People are trying to get a sense of control by buying things you really don’t need. It’s a false sense of control.”

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At the same time, some more effective weapons against coronavirus — such as bar soap, hand soap and tissue — remain in plentiful supply.

The CVS at the corner of Northside Drive and Powers Ferry Road in Sandy Springs was well stocked with regular wet wipes and Kleenex tissue. But an employee said not to bother looking for hand sanitizer or Clorox wipes. Asked about face masks, she chuckled.

The same was the case at the Walmart on Cobb Parkway and at a Dollar Tree store in Sandy Springs: plenty of soap and tissue, totally out of hand sanitizer and bleach wipes.

A Sandy Springs Office Depot, a few doors over, did have about 25 boxes worth of disinfecting wipes — but only the Highmark brand, which uses ammonium chloride. Clorox wipes were gone.

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A Buckhead Publix supermarket, near Chastain Park, still had a half-dozen Clorox cans in its cleaning aisle, with a sign posted above explaining, “Because of increased demand, customers are limited to two of each item in the disinfectant wipes and sprays section. Thank you for understanding.” The Publix at Sugarloaf Crossing in Gwinnett still had Clorox, Lysol and GreenWise wipes, but in the pharmacy aisle a bright green note said, “Our Apologies,” because alcohol swabs and wipes were sold out.

The Target in Sandy Springs near Perimeter Mall was also setting limits on disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and hand/face wipes — no more than six per customer.

Deep on a lower shelf, there were five containers of Clorox compostable cleaning wipes left. Until a woman spotted them, and then there were four.

Associated Press reports were used in this story.

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