Cold medicine, bandages and cremes line the shelves in the pharmacy section of Walmart, but one row remains empty. Where the masks usually reside sits a taped sign: “We do not have any face masks. Sorry for the inconvenience!” An identical bright orange message is posted on the pharmacy window.
Heather Louden, Walmart’s front-end team lead, said the store has been out of medical and hardware masks since Saturday, Jan. 25. Small hand sanitizer bottles have been sold out since Sunday, and the store is running low on Clorox wipes, disinfectant and isopropyl alcohol.
“It’s not something that we’ve ever really run dangerously low on,” Louden said.
Louden said she doesn’t know when the store will be able to restock these items. The norm would be two weeks, but it might be up to three or four weeks until they are able to reshelve large amounts of masks and hand sanitizer bottles. Walmart wasn’t expecting to sell out of these items, and Louden doesn’t want to make any promises as to when they’ll be back in stock, especially because their local supplier is low, as well, due to high demand in the area.
She isn’t sure why they sold out of these items before the coronavirus threat emerged but noted it is flu season, and many Miami University students returned to campus last week.
ACE Hardware sold out of masks last Tuesday, about six hours after the announcement that two Miami students were being tested for the coronavirus, said Vincent Smith, merchandiser lead.
Either late Wednesday night or early Thursday, a staff member had to drive to an Indiana warehouse to restock their supply because the local warehouse was out of stock, Smith added.
The shelves of the CVS on Spring Street and South College Avenue, where face masks are usually sold, were also empty on Sunday night. The manager said he couldn’t comment about a potential increase in sales.
Kroger store manager Lauren White said they still have face masks, hand sanitizer and other illness-related items in-stock, although they have noticed an increase in sales of such items in recent days.
Despite all the fears about the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control doesn’t recommend wearing face masks.
“While limited person-to-person spread among close contacts has been detected, this virus is not currently spreading in the community in the United States,” its website says.
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According to The Washington Post, a typical disposable facemask won’t protect against any type of virus but is more effective for those who are already sick to prevent the spread of the disease to others.