As fears over the growing coronavirus outbreak continue, stores are seeing a surge in sales of hand sanitizer, face masks and other disinfectant products.
In Billings, that’s led to shortages in virus-related products, and some stores have begun to limit the number of items that one customer can buy.
Montana had reported no cases of coronavirus, sometimes referred to as COVID-19, as of Monday. Idaho, Wyoming and the Dakotas have not had cases either.
Public officials have acknowledged that it’s likely the disease will spread into the state. Yellowstone County health officials have said they are preparing to respond to the virus as it enters the county.
Target, WinCo and Albertsons stores in Billings confirmed Monday that they have begun limiting how much hand sanitizer, hand soap and other products customers purchase during one shopping trip.
Albertsons imposed a limitation of “five items in one shopping trip on disinfectant sprays, wipes and hand sanitizer” across all stores, according to a spokesperson.
Restocking would happen “as soon as the supply chain allows,” according to the spokesperson.
WinCo Foods on Billings’ West End placed a limit of four items each per family of disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, hand soap, latex gloves and face masks.
Target limited the number to six items per guest for the same products, in a corporate-wide move, according to a spokesperson. That limit went into effect over the weekend.
Spokespeople with Costco and Walmart did not return a request from the Billings Gazette for comment by press time.
Toilet paper is also in short supply across the country and locally, although the three Billings stores have yet to impose limitations on the number of packages one customer can buy.
Panic buying of cold and flu medicine, as well as hygiene and disinfectant products has been a nationwide and global phenomenon, the AP reported.
Key steps recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus include:
- Washing hands with soap and water.
- Covering coughs and sneezes.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Staying home when sick.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using household cleaning spray or wipes.
Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The U.S. has seen cases in 34 states, with more than 400 cases nationwide. Globally the virus has killed almost 4,000 people; the majority of deaths have been in China.