Amid reports of coronavirus-wary consumers buying up large quantities of emergency and household supplies, local health officials said Wednesday residents should always be prepared to subsist in an emergency, there's no immediate need for long-term hoarding.
Los Angeles County health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said residents should be prepared just as they should always be for a natural disaster or other emergency.
"That means having some water in your house and some food and your medications that last for a few days,'' Ferrer said. "You don't need to rush out and buy out weeks and weeks worth of supplies, but you (do) need to have what we always ask you to have -- enough supplies in your house to get through a few days.''
Media reports out of areas more heavily impacted by the coronavirus, such as Washington state, noted consumers were flocking to stores such a Costco and Walmart, buying out retailers' stock of items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Los Angeles Couty Supervisor Janice Hahn noted Wednesday the supply chain is also being affected by reduction in cargo traffic at the Southland port complex.
"The drop in ships coming from China has been dramatic,'' Hahn said. "Things like paper towels, toilet paper ... I've even heard there's a run on Purell at Costco and the company is ramping up to create more.''
The Nielsen consumer market research agency noted in a report this week that consumers worldwide are "actively stockpiling emergency supplies'' due to coronavirus concerns.
"They're also starting to think beyond emergency items, such as basic foodstuffs, including canned goods, flour, sugar and bottled water,'' according to Nielsen. "Concerns are having a ripple effect into non-food essentials as well. In the U.S., sales of supplements, fruit snacks and first aid kits, for example, are all on the rise.''
The agency noted "significant spikes'' in hoarding of emergency supplies in China, the United States and Italy, "where consumers are rushing to build what are being labeled 'pandemic pantries.'''
"We expect the rush to stock up to have an almost immediate impact on supply chains for manufacturers of the most sought-after goods,'' according to Nielsen. "Stocks of hand sanitizers and medical face masks have already dried up in some markets, with no clear indication of when supplies will be replenished.''
Given the likely increased demand for such supplies Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer issued a consumer alert, noting that under the state of emergency proclaimed Wednesday morning due to the virus, retailers can be prosecuted for price gouging.
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Feuer's office noted that it is "unlawful for a person or business to sell or offer any food items or consumer goods, or medical supplies, at a price that is more than 10% higher than the price charged immediately prior to the declaration.''
Anyone who believes they may have been victimized by price gouging or is aware of such activity was urged to call 213-978-8340.