Share this story...
toilet paper limits
Latest News

Toilet paper limits, empty shelves are back as virus surges

FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, file photo, a section of shelving that normally holds paper towels sits empty at Redner's in Schuylkill Haven, Pa., amid the latest surge of the coronavirus pandemic. (Lindsey Shuey/The Republican-Herald via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Looking for toilet paper? Good luck.

A surge of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is sending people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases.

Walmart said Tuesday it’s having trouble keeping up with demand for cleaning supplies in some stores. Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix are limiting how much toilet paper and paper towels shoppers can buy after demand spiked recently. And Amazon is sold out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels.

A similar scene played out back in March, when the pandemic first hit and people hunkered down in their homes.

But Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association, formerly the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said he doesn’t expect things to be as bad this go-around since lockdowns are being handled on a regional basis and everyone is better prepared.

“A more informed consumer combined with a more informed manufacturer and a more informed retailer should provide all of us with a greater sense of ease and ensure we can meet this growing demand, “ Freeman said.

The biggest supply issue seems to be paper products: 21% of shelves that stock paper towels and toilet paper are empty, the highest level in at least a month, according to market research company IRI. Cleaning supplies have remained level at 16%. Before the pandemic, 5% to 7% of consumer goods were typically out of stock, IRI said.

Contributing to the problem is the fact that roughly 10% of the workforce at manufacturing plants where the products are made are calling out sick, mainly because they’ve been in contact with others who were tested positive to COVID-19, Freeman said.

Kelly Anderson of Colorado Springs, Colorado, said she needs more supplies now that in-person school in her area was canceled earlier this month and her two children are at home more. She’s noticed others are stocking up, too: Safeway and Walmart were nearly wiped out of bottled water and disinfectant wipes during a recent visit, both of which had been easy to find since the summer.

It’s also been harder to find a time slot to get her groceries delivered. Anderson says she’s had to wait as many as two days instead of same-day delivery. But that’s still not as bad as earlier this year

“March seems like a million years ago, but I do remember freaking out,” she said. “I couldn’t get groceries delivered for a week.”

Walmart said while supplies are stressed in some areas, it thinks it will be able to handle any stockpiling now than earlier this year. Amazon said its working with manufacturers to get items such as disinfecting wipes, paper towels and hand sanitizer in stock.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States