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Coronavirus Panic Buying Leaves Some Dayton Supermarket Shelves Empty

Toilet paper sold quickly Thursday at a market in Yellow Springs.
Neenah Ellis
Toilet paper sold quickly Thursday at a market in Yellow Springs.

Many Miami Valley supermarkets are seeing long lines and empty shelves amid mounting concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Earlier this week Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all public and private K-12 schools across the state to close beginning Monday for three weeks, affecting hundreds of thousands of Ohio students.

As Dayton-area families prepare for the shutdown, Oakwood Dorothy Lane Market store director Jerry Post says the chain’s more than 800 employees are working overtime to replace items as they sell out.

"We are certainly seeing some panic," he says. "We are running into the same thing other stores are. We've been out of hand sanitizer for a few days now. Toilet paper seems to be the hottest commodity in the city. So as soon as we get some in, within a couple of hours, we're out again. And we're seeing people grab pretty much anything they can keep in their freezer and dry goods, and they’re just loading up.”

Post, who has worked for Dorothy Lane for nearly three decades, compares the shopping crowds at the market's three locations this week to "Christmas with a snowstorm coming," stressing the market's supply chain is functioning as normal, with suppliers delivering shipments daily.

The locally owned market is requiring all staff to wash hands often, disinfect all surfaces and stay home if they feel sick.

Other Miami Valley supermarket chains say they are following similar hygiene precautions, including Michigan-based Meijer.

In an online statement, Cincinnati-based Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen says the company is enforcing federal and state public health recommendations as the coronavirus situation continues to develop.

Kroger is also limiting the number of cold, flu and sanitary products each customer can purchase at one time to help prevent future shortages of critical items -- a message visible on paper signs hanging from store shelves at some Kroger locations Thursday.

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Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding Americainitiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.