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Fears of coronavirus draining shelves of hand sanitizer, masks, other supplies

Fears of coronavirus causes some items to disappear off store shelves

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Fears of the coronavirus are causing some items to disappear off store shelves including masks, gloves and even rubbing alcohol so people can make their own hand sanitizer.

Some of these products may not be available for weeks. It’s something that started about two weeks ago at George’s Family Pharmacy on East 16th Street.

Michelle Long has been a pharmacist for 23 years and she says she’s never seen anything like it.

The bell on the front door has been ringing a little extra at George’s for these last few weeks and there’s been a few more daily phone calls too. People have been on the hunt for supplies to fight a disease which has yet to arrive in Indiana: the coronavirus.

There’s no hand sanitizer to be found of any kind or size at George’s.

“We’re in back order until mid-March at the earliest, maybe even be later,” Long said.

In between the gauze and the tape there’s another empty space on the shelf, a spot that used to be reserved for a single box of masks.

“That’s even toward the end of March and that date is subject to change.”

She’s keeping a growing waiting list of names and numbers.

It’s a problem going on all around the country with big chains and box stores running out too. Even Amazon pulled a million products off their site because of price gouging.

Long said for those who are truly desperate, there is an option, but not one she advises.

“Go on eBay if you want,” she said. “You’re spending $50-75 for a box of masks that should cost less than $5.”

It’s all to fight a disease with just over 150 cases in this country as of Wednesday. That number is low compared to the amount of flu cases which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates could make up to 45 million people sick this year and kill 61,000. And it did the same last year.

Long said regardless of the out-of-stock items, there’s a better solution which works for both flu and coronavirus. It’s in stock just about everywhere and at George’s it’s just one row below the space for sanitizer: soap.

Use it with water frequently, especially before you eat, after you use the bathroom and after you cough or sneeze.

A fact that sanitizing supplies are only now becoming scarce is something that Long has noticed.

“That is actually very frightening to me. I’m very honest about that,” she said. “Continue to wash your hands. Take all the basic precautions. Just be safe.”

Every place is a little bit different when it comes to supply and demand.