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Doctor: Don't hoard toilet paper and other sanitizing supplies

Store shelves are empty, as people stock up on items for fear of coronavirus.

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Shoppers are seeing empty store shelves, thanks to a fear of coronavirus.

However, experts warn hoarding toilet paper and other cleaning supplies hurts the efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

“Yes, have some on hand,” said Dr. Karla Black, the emergency preparedness coordinator with Kent County Health Department, “but don’t hoard it.”

Dr. Black said hoarding these supplies prevents people who need it from having access to it.

RELATED: Here is a list of Michigan colleges, universities transitioning to online classes amid COVID-19 outbreak

“Start thinking of the community as a whole,” said Dr. Black, “because the small choices you make could impact other people down the line in the community, that don’t have access to the resources you have, or the health you currently have.”

She said buying toilet paper in bulk isn’t necessary, just make sure you have enough for a possible two-week quarantine.

Credit: Stephanie Myers
A look at the toilet paper aisle at the Sam's Club on Alpine in Comstock Park.

“I think it’s because someone sees there’s no toilet paper, so I need toilet paper,” said Black. “So, it perpetuates there isn’t any. But there is plenty of toilet paper, but people keep buying it. So, it’s a want versus need versus demand.”

Black suggests keeping an emergency kit ready, stocked with non-perishable food, medical items and cleaning supplies. But she said don’t overdo it.

Stores were packed with customers Thursday, and shoppers told us store shelves were empty.

“We were looking for toilet paper, Lysol wipes paper towel,” said Lindsay Bandyk, a shopper at Costco, “basically anything that would keep us alive.”

RELATED: COVID-19 preps: Why are people stocking up on toilet paper?

Credit: Brianne Elizabeth
The cleaning supply aisle at the Meijer in Walker.

She said they walked out with none of those items, and said lines were about a 35-minute wait.

Meijer released a statement saying they are doubling down on sanitizing the store, and working with team leaders to fix the inventory issues.

RELATED: Meijer redoubling cleaning efforts at stores amid coronavirus concerns

“You hear people making jokes about going in with a club or machete or cattle rod,” said Paul Kilmer, also a shopper at Costco. "It’s not that much of a joke anymore.”

Kilmer said he and his wife were going into the store looking for water bottles and toilet paper. They were only looking for enough for normal use. He said the fear over the virus made these items impossible to find.

“Get one of each thing, not ten,” said Bandyk. “You don’t need it.”

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