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Panic buying returns, emptying some store shelves in SB County

Nearly-empty TP aisle
Ed Zuchelli/KEYT
A toilet paper aisle inside the Albertson's in Buellton was nearly wiped out on Wednesday afternoon.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Some stores across Santa Barbara County are beginning to see empty or nearly-empty shelves once again as people stock up heavily on items like toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies.

As the pandemic intensified in March and April, so did the first "panic buying" trend that made it difficult to find those products in stores across the country.

This time, the trend follows an alarming nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases and tighter restrictions imposed in California this week. Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties suddenly slid back to the purple tier--the state's most restrictive--on Monday.

More people are stocking up, anticipating more time at home with those restrictions in place.

That being said, local store managers say there is plenty of supply to go around, as long as people do not overreact and hoard high-demand items.

“Panic buying doesn’t help… it’s better to be prepared, but don’t panic,” said John Dixon, owner of Tri-County Produce in Santa Barbara. “Just relax a little bit and don’t panic. Make sure there’s enough for everybody.”

“People should just calm down a little bit,” said Carlos Hernandez, manager at Santa Barbara’s Santa Cruz Market. “‘Cause the stores are never gonna close. They’re gonna stay open. So there’s not too much to worry about.”

Although the shortages were widespread in the spring, Dixon says that situation can be avoided this time if people don't stock up too much, all at once.

“We were not out of product,” he explained, referring to the spring. “It’s not that the country was out of food. It’s that everybody panicked and bought everything all at once. It caused a supply distribution problem. The supply couldn’t reach the stores soon enough, quick enough. That was the big issue.”

Some stores are preventing massive purchases by limiting the number of high-demand items that customers can buy. Others are hoping customers cooperate so those limits don't need to be put in place.

Coronavirus / Santa Barbara - South County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County

Ryan Fish

Ryan Fish is a reporter, sports anchor and forecaster at KEYT|KCOY|KKFX.

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