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State urges people not to 'panic shop' during pandemic surge

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

As the state experiences a second wave of COVID-19 and accompanying restrictions, state officials and stores are warning against stockpiling items like toilet paper at the risk of impacting the state's supply chain.

Shoppers should buy only what they need for the week, said Gary McDowell, director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“Michigan has an ample supply of food products and other items," McDowell said. "But, when shoppers panic buy products like toilet paper, paper towel and other items, it creates a ripple effect within the supply chain."

For subscribers:Metro Detroit stores prepared for renewed panic buying

The Michigan Retailers Association has begun to see evidence of people returning to early pandemic levels of panic shopping, said William Hallan, president and CEO for the Michigan Retailers Association. 

“Consumers need to know that stores, particularly grocery stores, will remain open," Hallan said. "Consumers should plan for essentials in weekly increments to ensure that supply levels remain steady over the next few weeks."

An employee at Meijer in Detroit restocks store shelves with paper products.

If customers buy in weekly increments or in the amount they would usually purchase, the supply at stores should sufficient, said Todd Weer, senior vice president of Meijer stores. 

“Our goal is to have everything our customers need, and our supply chain and store teams are working very hard to keep our shelves stocked during these busy times," said Weer. 

Detroit area stores told The Detroit News this week they were seeing increased sales of toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, vitamin C and hand sanitizer. Some stores had limits on the number of items purchased.

The warning comes as Michigan's COVID-19 case incidence increases and some hospitals are reporting they are nearing capacity.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced new restrictions Sunday that include halting in-person instruction at high schools and colleges and indoor dine-in service at restaurants and bars. Other businesses, including movie theaters, bowling alleys and casino, were ordered closed.

On Thursday, the state reported 7,592 more COVID-19 cases and 134 deaths, bringing the state's totals to 285,298 confirmed cases and 8,324 deaths.

This week, Michigan ranked sixth nationally for the number of cases and fifth for deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

About 3,394 adults are hospitalized in Michigan with COVID-19, as well as another 3787 with suspected cases of the virus, as of Wednesday. On Oct. 13, the state had 999 COVID-19 hospitalizations.