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Metro Detroit stores prepared for renewed panic buying

Ariana Taylor   | The Detroit News

Michigan's renewed surge in COVID-19 infections has shoppers stocking up on hand sanitizer, toilet paper and other essentials, but unlike in the spring, Metro Detroit retailers say they expect to avoid shortages.

Jamal Abro, the owner of Mike's Fresh Market in northwest Detroit, for instance, spent months stockpiling products that ran low during the initial wave of COVID-19 cases in the spring, store manager Mareeca Boyd said. 

"(Business) has been pretty steady... but my boss has always been prepared," Boyd said. "He knows how to keep stuff in stock so we're prepared for it in every department."  

Now, as virus cases in Michigan have surpassed 285,000 with 8,324 deaths on Thursday, Boyd said customers at the store at Seven Mile and Livernois have started buying more toilet tissue, paper towels, cases of water, bleach and disinfectant wipes. 

Tatiana Tayner of Detroit, who has a 1-year-old daughter, left Mike's on Thursday with two carts full of groceries, toiletries and cleaning supplies. Tayner said she's stocking up because she's isolating herself to avoid contracting the virus and bringing it to her daughter.

"I'm just trying to get us prepared to do these three weeks of quarantining," said Tayner, 23. "I'm not sure if it'll go longer, if they'll extend it like they did last time ... but I don't want to have to bring her out here so she won't get sick and I won't get sick as well." 

Larger stores in Metro Detroit suburbs also had plenty of cleaning and sanitizing products on their shelves Thursday, though some other items were out of stock.

At the Target on Southfield Road in Southfield and the Walmart Supercenter on W. Seven Mile in Livonia, shelves for vitamin C and immune boosting gummies were empty. At the Walmart, Tylenol also was out of stock.

"As we would normally do during periods of high demand, we are working through our best-in-class supply chain to replenish items as quickly as possible," said Casey Staheli, Walmart senior manager of national media relations.

"We are seeing pockets of lower than normal availability in some communities on bath tissue and cleaning supplies, depending on what’s happening in the local area. We will continue to keep a close eye on product availability."

For some shoppers, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's latest actions to curb the pandemic have led them to fear running out of essentials during what they consider a second lockdown.

Sunday, Whitmer announced new restrictions that include halting in-person instruction at high schools and colleges, indoor dine-in service at restaurants and bars, and high school athletics as well as closing some businesses, including movie theaters, bowling alleys and casinos for three weeks.

At the Meijer at Eight Mile and Woodward in Detroit, items such as hand sanitizer, hand soap and masks were heavily stocked in several different aisles, though the store had a two-item limit on cleaning products. 

Emelia Moore, 29, of Detroit, took advantage of the store's stocked shelves as her quarantine stockpile from the summer had finally run out. 

"The local stores around me had no toilet paper and no paper towels and hardly no soap ... no store had anything. So at that point I did kind of panic and I did get a lot," she said. "This time around, I'm a little bit more prepared just in case something happens."

Not everyone at the store felt the need to fill their cart.

Robert Patton said he's not looking to stockpile anything, even though he was caught by surprise during March's run on essentials.

"It was pretty bad timing for me at that time. I ran out of toilet paper; I had to go get some from my grandma," Patton said. "I should be good now. I'm not too worried about it and I'm a single guy, so I don't buy in bulk."