The day after Governor Asa Hutchinson confirmed the state's first presumptive positive COVID-19 case in Pine Bluff, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers and toilet paper flew off the shelves of retail giants like Walmart.

The day after Governor Asa Hutchinson confirmed the state’s first presumptive positive COVID-19 case in Pine Bluff, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers and toilet paper flew off the shelves of retail giants like Walmart.
The fear of the coronavirus has driven Pine Bluff residents to grocery stores and retail chains to stock up on necessities, like toilet paper, paper towels, water, canned foods and basic hygiene items.
The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas meaning people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Now that the virus has hit so close to home, panic buying has become a staple in the community.
Walmart Super Center, located at 5501 S. Olive St, was bombarded with customers Thursday morning with shopping carts full of toilet tissue and cleaning supplies. Walmart stockers expeditiously tried to keep up with the demand, restocking empty shelves.
“People were in here with masks and gloves on stocking up,” said a Walmart customer who asked to remain anonymous because her husband had to be quarantined for 10 hours after visiting someone at JRMC on Wednesday. “I think the virus is serious but if you take the proper precautions like washing your hands, you will be ok.”
Walmart said in a released statement that as the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, they know it is top of mind for their customers. “We see it in the items people are buying and hear it in the conversations we’re having in our stores,” read the release. “As one would expect, paper products, cleaning supplies and other items are in high demand as customers prepare for the possible impact of COVID-19. We are working to replenish those items quickly, including diverting products to areas of the country where they are needed most and routing deliveries directly to stores. We have also authorized our store managers to manage their inventory, including the discretion to limit sales quantities on items that are in unusually high demand.”
On the other side of town, Super Foods 1 located at 2800 S Hazel St, was fully stocked with toilet paper, cleaning supplies and water but the customer experience was a cautionary one. Everyone from employees to patrons could be seen wearing masks and gloves.
Larry Gibson Jr of Little Rock was seen shopping with his 8 and 9-year daughters of Pine Bluff. Both girls were wearing masks. Gibson stated he is going to do anything to keep them protected and the rest is in God’s hands. “We are going to take the precautions of washing up, sanitizing and keeping the house clean,” he said.
“I’ve been shut in for the last couple of days cause I had flu symptoms, said Super Foods 1 customer Dannette Cleveland. “I’ve been wiping down everything and keeping myself distant from others. I don’t want to take any chances of spreading nothing or catching nothing.”
Cleveland says she lives down the street from SEARK where three Respiratory Therapy students were quarantined who had contact with the patient while performing their clinical rotation at the Jefferson County Medical Center. The students have been instructed to quarantine for 14 days.
“I advise people to be very careful of their surroundings because we don’t know where people are coming from,” said Cleveland. “We have to take precaution.”
Super Foods 1 has posted a notice to the public stating they will continually monitor updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have implemented measures throughout our company to protect our employees and customers from any potential exposures and to help ensure that our stores remain well-stocked with high-demand items,” read the notice.
Walmart also says they are also monitoring the situation.
“We are monitoring this situation daily, and, as we do with any unusual event, we will watch what’s happening locally and adjust business operations and policies as needed,” said Walmart in a release. “We are in close communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other health organizations, and are following their guidelines as well as the advice of our own Chief Medical Officer.”