Shoppers empty shelves as coronavirus hits Michigan

A day after the first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Michigan, long lines, empty shelves and limits on supplies are hitting local stores. 

Early Thursday, Roseville resident Mary Hale was at her neighborhood super store by 7 a.m.

Shelves early Thursday at the Meijer store at 13 Mile and Little Mack in Roseville.

"I think it's a hell of a situation that's going on," the senior citizen said.

She said her biggest question is whether retailers will be able to restock their shelves.

“I think I and a lot of people are worried there will be shortages. I think people instinctively believe it because a lot of the stuff we buy comes from other countries and we’re worried there could be problems at the ports.”

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Costco Wholesale store in Madison Heights had signs saying it was out of paper towels and bathroom tissue. The store also was completely out of hand sanitizer, facial tissues, hand and dish soap, baked goods, vinegar and rice. 

The store had a limit of two cases of water per customer with about 50 cases left. Lines were packed with customers with lines wrapping around the outside of the store as customers waited to enter.

The Costco in Madison Heights was completely out of toilet paper and paper towel Wednesday.

Many shoppers headed to 24-hour stores like Meijer in Allen Park, which had a long line at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday as they rushed to get health-care supplies.

In Livonia, lines of nearly 100 people had already formed before Costco store had opened at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

At Big Lots on Ford Road in Dearborn, shopper Devon Culver of Detroit was getting household items Wednesday evening and had no problem finding the supplies she needed.

“I will say that I think it’s been blown out of proportion, slightly," Culver said. 

"We’ve had SARS, H1N1 ... this is the new strain, so it has everyone in a panic.”

Nearby at Walmart, the store has been busier than normal, said a frequent shopper.

Amber Ravens, 20, of Dearborn was stocking up on supplies, but couldn't find Lysol wipes.

Meijer in Allen Park, which is open 24-hours had a long line at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“When I heard about (coronavirus), I told my mom to wear gloves," she said. "I've got hand sanitizer in my pocket.”

Meanwhile, a Walmart employee said a company email to workers encouraged them to wear latex gloves at work to protect themselves.

 ► More: Flu vs. coronavirus: How they compare

► More: Michigan coronavirus cases confirmed in Oakland, Wayne counties

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency Tuesday, which will activate several state agencies and task forces to collaborate the state's response to the virus, assist local governments and slow its spread.

"They’re already meeting to discuss further preventative measures that we can take," Whitmer said. "The coronavirus has the potential to impact our lives in nearly every aspect of our lives.”

The Costco in Madison Heights was completely out of vinegar and rice Wednesday.

The tests confirming the cases involved an Oakland County woman with a recent history of international travel and a Wayne County man with a recent history of domestic travel. Both middle-aged individuals are hospitalized, Whitmer said.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_