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COVID-19: Panic Buying Sparks Call To Action From Town Supervisor In Westchester

A look at empty shelves at a Fairfield County ShopRite store, in Danbury, on Friday, March 13. Photo Credit: Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner, right, at a restaurant on Central Avenue in Hartsdale in May, 2018. Photo Credit: Jon Craig/File photo

The outbreak of the novel strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to "panic buying" as consumers have been racing to stores to stock up on staples.

Many supermarkets have begun restricting the sale of certain goods and have sold out supplies of several items, including hand sanitizer, bleach and toilet paper.

The issue has been occurring across the country, and many parts of the world, including in Europe and Australia.

With fear overtaking facts when it comes to COVID-19, there's no end in sight. In fact, in some cases, fights have broken out over parking lot spaces or the few desired items left on store shelves.

Now, a political leader in Westchester is calling for the state to take action.

"New York State needs to address panic supermarket buying," said Paul Feiner, who has served as town supervisor in Greenburgh since 1981. "If we are shutting down almost everything to discourage human contact, why are crowded supermarkets OK?"

Feiner noted schools, colleges, sports events and Broadway theaters have gone dark as social distancing has become a national priority.

"Yet, the supermarkets are overcrowded with people who are close together, panic buying," Feiner said. "Every shopper who is in a supermarket overpacked with shoppers is increasing the chances of getting infected and infecting others."

Feiner said the parking lot at the ShopRite on Central Avenue in Scarsdale was so packed on Friday, March 13, he didn't go in.

"I heard that the lines during the day were enormous," he said.

Now, it's time for the state to act, Feiner says.

"I believe that New York State officials need to address the problem," said Feiner, who has twice run for Congress. "If a supermarket is packed with hundreds of people (and shoppers are within six feet of each other), they can spread the virus.

"In the United Kingdom, some supermarkets, facing the same problem, have started to ration food because panic buying left shelves empty. 

"There is no need to buy more than needed. A sneeze and cough in an overpacked supermarket is just as bad as a sneeze in a school, Broadway show or train.

"Supermarkets need to let people know that there is no need to hoard groceries and essentials. They won't run out of food."

Feiner has a suggestion for the state.

"New York State should work with supermarkets and on online delivery companies to make sure that they can meet the demands of a growing number of people who will be in self-isolation," he said. "We need to reassure people that if they are placed in isolation they won't starve.

"We can beat coronavirus if people don't infect others. As part of the plan to stop the spread of the virus, we must find a way to end panic shopping."

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