COVID-19 has caused statewide panic buying in every county, and the High Desert wasn’t immune to this behavior, especially in the city of Victorville. The panic, the hysteria, and all the toilet paper and water disappeared within hours of March 9, when the State of California issued a “stay-in-place” order. Stores rushed to fill their shelves as panicked buyers rushed in to buy everything they could.
Sara Santillan, a customer that went shopping that week, said, “The doors finally opened and we all rushed in. It was crazy seeing so many people grabbing things off the walls and the poor workers trying to accommodate everyone.”
Stores started to take measures that first week to ensure some type of control by limiting their hours and limiting how many products can be purchased per household, such as one pack of toilet paper and one case of water. Fights broke out between employees and customers. Lines went around buildings that it took hours just to get inside the store.
Matthew Musharbash, a grocery worker from Victorville, explained, “I was losing my mind and was overwhelmed at all the customers coming in and going down the aisles while we were still throwing products up.”
Grocery store employees started working longer hours and without protection. Some employees worked 16 hours a day to try to fill the shelves. Stater Bros., Food 4 Less, Costco, and many other stores scrambled to find help, going as far as to try and hire more workers, on the spot.
Melanie Fresquez, another Victorville grocery store worker said, “I was surprised by all the toilet paper and water they were taking. Everything was crazy for the next couple of days.”
With no end in sight to the purchasing of supplies and food, the stores started to set up special hours for the elderly. One after another, the elderly were reserved an hour to themselves to shop without the rush of the younger generation interfering with their buying. First responders and healthcare workers received an hour of their own this week as well.
It has been a month. The shelves are still empty in some stores. Costco is reporting that they are still getting toilet paper and water. Some stores are getting sporadic loads. The warehouses are trying to do their best. The grocery stores are going to have to take drastic measures by cutting down the number of customers inside the stores, putting tape on the floor to mark distancing guidelines, and putting up plexiglass shields to protect the cashiers.