CASPER, Wyo. – Certain supplies have vanished from store shelves in Casper recently in the wake of a global coronavirus pandemic.
Some make sense, but one shortage is particularly puzzling.
Hand sanitizing gel is nearly impossible to find in most retail locations this week.
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Health experts agree that using sanitizing gel with at least 60 percent alcohol is the next best thing to vigorously washing hands with soap and water for preventing spread of COVID-19.
Cleaning and disinfecting wipes are also in short supply. Cleaning surfaces well and often is another key measure to ease or stop the spread of the virus.
However, it’s the glaring emptiness of Casper’s toilet paper isles that most people are talking about.
Visits to two Walmarts, Sam’s Club, Target and Walgreens turned up little to mostly no toilet paper results.
A Walmart associate said they had nothing in stock on the west side and could not say when the next shipment would arrive. The employee said customers were checking non-traditional stores for toilet paper supplies, such as Menards and Sutherlands.
An employee reached at Target said supplies were wiped out, but a truck was scheduled to arrive on Thursday. The store has an automatic refill order on stock, the employee said.
Attempts to reach Walmart and Target’s corporate office for comment were unsuccessful, but retailers have issued press releases on their coronavirus preparations.
“As one would expect, paper products, cleaning supplies and other items are in high demand as customers prepare for the possible impact of COVID-19,” said Walmart in a release.
“We are working to replenish those items quickly, including diverting products to areas of the country where they are needed most and routing deliveries directly to stores.”
The release also said Walmart is allowing local managers to manage their inventory, including putting limits on quantities.
A release from Target said, “as demand for cleaning products, medicine, pantry stock-up items and more remains high, we’re sending more products to our stores as quickly as possible.”
Casper health experts held a press conference on Wednesday morning addressing the city and county’s readiness for the inevitable coronavirus cases that will enter the state.
Hoarding toilet paper was strongly discouraged, mocked even, particularly considering none of the coronavirus symptoms include diarrhea.
“The idea that the community bought out every single (disinfectant) wipe known to man and every single roll of toilet paper honestly gave us all a bit laugh,” said infections disease specialist Dr. Mark Dowell, M.D.
“C’mon guys, you don’t need to hoard toilet paper in the community…please!”
There is apparently some phycology behind the hoarding, particularly of toilet paper.
According to some experts quoted by The Conversation, it’s easy, and it gives some sense of control.
“Toilet paper symbolizes control,” said Niki Edwards with the Queensland University of Technology. “We use it to ‘tidy up’ and ‘clean up’. It deals with a bodily function that is somewhat taboo.”
Brian Cook with the University of Melbourne said, “Stocking up on toilet paper is also a relatively cheap action, and people like to think that they are ‘doing something’ when they feel at risk.”
There could also be the question if people will be sequestered in their homes for a long period of time, leading to buying supplies that are practical but not perishable.
Either way, it’s hard to say when the hoarding will stop, particularly considering there has yet to be a confirmed coronavirus case in the state of Wyoming.
Update: The Wyoming Department of Health reported the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Wyoming on Wednesday night, a few hours after this story was published.
The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:
What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.
If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.
Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.
For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: email@example.com
- Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.