Many stores on the North Olympic Peninsula experienced a run on hand sanitizer and face masks after news broke of the deaths from COVID-19 of two men in Kirkland.
The unique coronavirus has not been seen before by health officials, who are working to understand more about it.
It appears to spread form person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website at www.cdc.gov/bd
There is no vaccine for it now. A test for the virus, which originated in China, developed by the CDC was given to states Friday, and testing criteria was changed to allow testing of those with severe respiratory infections even if they had not traveled out of the country.
Health officials are recommending preventative measures such as washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, staying home when sick, covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing and avoiding close contact with those who are sick.
If soap and water are not available, the CDC has recommended the use of hand sanitizers as the next best choice.
And people have been stocking up — both on hand sanitizer and face masks, although the face masks are not effective in preventing people from catching the virus, according to a tweet from the Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Sunday morning.
A phone survey of stores in Clallam and Jefferson counties Sunday morning found that many were down to only travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer and in some cases those were going fast.
Home Depot in Sequim had a few travel size bottles left after a run began Saturday night, said manager Grant Ritter on Sunday morning.
“We’re down to travel size,” said Ken Lee, Rite Aid pharmacist on Lincoln Street in Port Angeles.
Face masks were sold out too, he said.
He said that the situation was similar at the Rite Aid off U.S. Highway 101 on the east end of town.
Walgreens in Port Angeles had only travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer available Sunday morning and the Sequim Walgreens stock apparently also was low.
The Port Townsend Safeway reported stocks of both hand sanitizers and masks were low Saturday morning.
Forks Outfitter’s is trying to replace its stock of hand sanitizer and face masks, according to a spokesperson there who did not want to be identified.
The Port Angeles Walmart manager provided only a phone number for the home office.
Nationally, CNN said Friday that drug stores, retailers and suppliers are racing to keep up with surging interest for cleaning products.
Demand for products like hand sanitizers, face masks and cleaning wipes has spiked, according to CVS — which has stores in Poulsbo and Seattle — Walgreens and others, CNN said.
“This demand may cause temporary shortages at some store locations and we re-supply those stores as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson for CVS told CNN.
Companies that make household cleaning products such as Purell hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes were boosting production, CNN said.
Market researchers at Adobe Analytics said that demand for hand sanitizers spiked 1,400 percent from December to January.
The World Health Organization has upgraded the global risk from the new coronavirus to “very high” as the outbreak continued to widen, with more than 88,000 cases of the COVID-19 disease confirmed in more than 60 nations. The global death toll reached at least 3,000.
Twelve cases have been confirmed in Washington state, two in Snohomish County and 10 in King County, according to the state Department of Health and authorities in the Seattle area.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].