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Bloomington CVS, Target, Kroger see effects of coronavirus outbreak scare



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An aisle of cold and flu medicine stands nearly empty March 8 at Target in Bloomington. Many stores are seeing shortages of supplies such as sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and more due to worries of the spread of coronavirus. Ty Vinson

Aisles of sanitizers and medications stood empty in Bloomington on Sunday morning, with seldom a person passing through like a tumbleweed as they realize there’s no more cold medicine and hand sanitizer to fight off the scare of coronavirus. 

Stores and businesses around the country are seeing the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, with items going out of stock within days or weeks and no indication of when they’ll be restocked. According to the New York Times, hand sanitizer sales in the U.S. went up 73% in February. When searching for hand sanitizer on Amazon, an article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes up at the top of the search page. Hand soaps, wipes and gels are also still available. One gallon of unscented Nature's Oil hand sanitzer, listed as a best seller, is selling for $69.95, plus $9.97 for shipping.

There have been two cases of coronavirus reported in Indiana, and Gov. Eric Holcomb declared a public health emergency Friday. 

Hannah Ikerd, shift supervisor at the CVS on East Third Street, said the first difference she saw was people coming in for flu shots. She said this was odd because flu season is technically over, and CVS has been out of flu shots for months. 

Ikerd said after flu shots, people started stocking up on surgical masks. CVS has been out for weeks. Then it was hand sanitizer, which has also been out for weeks. Now people are going for Clorox wipes and Lysol sprays. She said the store hasn’t put a limit on the amount of cleaning and sanitizing items still available that people can buy. Stores plan to restock items as soon as possible, and Ikerd said she doesn’t expect a limit on how much people can buy once that happens.

“But someone did just come in and buy four cans of Lysol,” Ikerd said. 

She said the store has had to turn people away quite a bit when they ask for sanitizers and disinfectant wipes, but most people just move on to a different store in hopes of finding the last remaining cleaning items. She said the requests for disinfectant items have been steady, if not getting worse with time as stores continue to run out of cleaning supplies. 

The aisles at Target on East Third Street were emptier than those at CVS on Sunday. People searched for medicines and sanitizers, but to no avail.  

“They were probably here but not anymore because of coronavirus,” a woman said to a child as they walked through the cold and flu aisle. 

A Target employee who insisted on not being named due to corporate policy said the store has also been out of hand sanitizer for weeks now. Items such as cleaning wipes, bleach, toilet paper and water are starting to get bought in bulk and beginning to run low. He said the store hasn’t put any restrictions on the amount of disinfectant items people can buy, but employees have had to turn people away plenty of times when they’re looking for hand sanitizer. 

A representative from Kroger on College Mall Road couldn’t be reached for comment by Sunday. Aisles in the health department ran low on hand sanitizers, surgical gloves, and cold and flu medicines. Price stickers were partially covered with signs reading, “Sorry for the inconvenience. We’ll restock this item as soon as it’s available.”

A shelf of surgical gloves and sanitizers is seen empty March 8 at Kroger on College Mall Road. Many stores around the country are dealing with a shortage of hand sanitizers and medicines due to coronavirus scares. Ty Vinson

Although hand sanitizer may be scarce, one of the best ways to protect oneself is to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Hand sanitizer is a good option is soap and water is unavailable.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the addresses of Target and CVS. The IDS regrets these errors.

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