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Limits of toilet paper, empty shelves are back as coronavirus rises

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NEW YORK (AP) – Looking for toilet paper? Good luck.

Outbreak of new coronavirus cases in US pushes people back to storesstore again, leaving shelves empty and forcing retailers to limit their purchases.

Walmart said Tuesday it was struggling to meet demand for cleaning products in some stores. Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix limittoilet paperand paper towel buyers can buy after demand has recently increased. And Amazon is out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels.

A similar sceneplayed in march, when the pandemic first hit and people crouched down in their homes.

But Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association, formerly the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said he didn’t expect things to be this bad this go-around since lockouts are being managed at regional level and that everyone is better prepared.

“A more informed consumer combined with a more informed manufacturer and a more informed retailer should give us all a greater sense of ease and ensure that we can meet this growing demand,” said Freeman.

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Shelves in the paper towels and toilet paper section sold out at a Meijer store in Carmel, Indiana on Tuesday, November 17, 2020. An outbreak of new coronavirus cases in the United States is sending people back to stores to stock up at again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to limit their purchases. (AP Photo / Michael Conroy)

The biggest supply problem appears to be paper products: 21% of shelves that store paper towels and toilet paper are empty, the highest level in at least a month, according to the market research company IRI. Cleaning supplies were flat at 16%. Before the pandemic, 5% to 7% of consumer goods were generally out of stock, according to IRI.

The fact that around 10% of the workforce in the manufacturing plants where products are made call sick, mainly because they have been in contact with others who have tested positive for COVID-19, contributes to the problem, Freeman said.

Kelly Anderson of Colorado Springs, Colorado, said she needs more supplies now that in-person school in her area was canceled earlier this month and her two children are no longer at home. She noticed others are also supplying: Safeway and Walmart were nearly eliminated from bottled water and sanitizing wipes on a recent visit, both of which were easy to find since the summer.

It was also more difficult to find a time slot to have your groceries delivered. Anderson says she had to wait up to two days instead of a same day delivery. But it’s still not as bad as it was earlier this year

“March seems like a million years ago, but I remember panicking,” she said. “I couldn’t get my groceries delivered for a week.”

Walmart has said that if supplies are stressed in some areas, it believes it will be able to handle all storage now until early this year. Amazon said it was working with manufacturers to get items such as sanitizing wipes, paper towels and hand sanitizer in stock.

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A sign displays limits on the amount of toilet paper that can be purchased at a Kroger store in Carmel, Indonesia on Tuesday, November 17, 2020. An outbreak of new coronavirus cases in the United States is sending people back to stores for store them again. , leaving shelves empty and forcing retailers to limit their purchases. (AP Photo / Michael Conroy)

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