NORTH CENTER — The city’s grocery stores are full even as their shelves are emptying — and that’s exactly what officials don’t want as coronavirus spreads.
Stores have been bustling with shoppers eager to fill their carts — and then pantries — amid fears over the coronavirus. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. JB Pritzker have repeatedly said people should not stockpile because it will make it more difficult for others to get their everyday supply of food.
“Please do not hoard food,” Pritzker said during a Sunday briefing on the virus. “Buy what you need, but please be reasonable. Think of your friends and your neighbors.
“There is enough food to go around, but we need people to not be selfish.”
Illinois has now had 93 people test positive for coronavirus, and officials have taken extraordinary steps like shutting down bars, restaurants and schools starting this week to prevent further spread of the virus.
But even last week, stores were already being emptied of items like pasta, frozen vegetables, rice and beans.
And it’s not just food: People have stocked up on cleaning supplies, thermometers, hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
At a Jewel-Osco near Western Avenue and Addison Street, one couple could be seen loading at least five large cases of water bottles into their car trunk.
At the Costco at 2746 N. Clybourn Ave., checkout lines stretched 500 feet on Friday — and toilet paper was sold out just two hours after a semi-truck full of it arrived.
Some stores have even put a limit on how many packages of toilet paper and paper towels any one person can buy, hoping that will help save some products for other customers.
The desire to stock up on items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper during an emergency is normal and one that gives people the feeling they are in control, said Katherine Cowan, a spokeswoman for the National Association of School Psychologists.
But there is a downside.
“You don’t want to do something that undermines other peoples’ ability to be prepared, like buying all the hand sanitizer,” Cowan said. “But doing reasonable, rational things to be prepared, even if they aren’t the things you’d do in your normal schedule, is not a bad thing to do.
“It’s not irrational to take this seriously but it’s important not to panic.”
Hoping to help, Pritzker said Sunday he is asking for an end to prohibitions on overnight grocery deliveries and is asking federal officials to lessen regulations to free up the flow of merchandise from warehouses to stores.
Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.
Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.
The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Shortness of breath
If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.
How To Protect Yourself
The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.
Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:
- The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
- Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you have to sneeze with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.
What To Do If You Think You’re Sick
Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.
If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where corona is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been advised to stay home.
Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.
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