Residents of the American city of Los Angeles anticipated a broader outbreak of the emerging corona virus, so they rushed to supply their needs from supermarkets that were empty of toilet rolls and legalized the sale of mineral water.
Two days after the state of California declared a state of emergency on its soil, stores were no longer able to meet the high demand for essential products.
“It is chaos, sales figures are twice what we usually achieve,” says Raine, who works at the Costco store in Burbank. “The situation today is out of control. So we no longer have toilet paper, no hand sanitizer, and little water.”
California has yet recorded one death from the emerging coronavirus, to come after Washington state, which recorded 11 deaths.
Despite calls from the authorities for restraint, California residents began to succumb to panic and the purchase of products in large quantities, as happened in other regions in Asia and elsewhere.
“It is crazy,” Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Gallanti told analysts on Thursday.
On that day, the San Bernardo County police near Los Angeles were summoned to a Costco chain store after a customer exploded, angry at them because of a lack of stock.
On Friday, Costco customers are only entitled to purchase two boxes of mineral water, compared to four the day before.
Many tried to buy more than the specified number, but the store staff confiscated it on the box, which led to some tension in the place.
An employee who was returning to shelves halted large quantities of water boxes that had been repeatedly confiscated from new customers trying to get as much goods as possible.
“With madness here, we are beginning to realize more and more the reality of things,” said Lisa Garcia, 30, acknowledging that her anxiety is on the rise.
“We wanted to provide toilet paper and tissue paper, but look at these empty shelves!”
In another branch of Costco, employees tell how customers enter the door running down towards the goods they want to buy.
At noon, only bottles of expensive soda were left in the store, to the dismay of many customers.
However, some try to see the positive side of things.
“I am warned,” said Andrew, a relief worker who did not want to reveal his family name. The man pushes a cart loaded with water, tissue, green lemon and soda-flavored ginger water.
“I want to make sure that we will have what is essential, such as tonic and wine, and so on. And if things go wrong, I can cope with it by drinking.”
“I’m only here if the end of the world comes,” says 35-year-old Carlos Gonzales, adding, “I think they found a good way to sell a lot of goods.”