In South Florida hurricane-warning-like fashion, people across the country are racing to stores and buying any available antibacterial product they can find. Hand soaps, face masks, hand sanitizers and toilet paper have been cleaned out of many stores. Employees have even put up signs limiting the number of products that can be bought per person.
ShopRite, a supermarket chain found in six states including New York and New Jersey, has been feeling the new wave of coronavirus-driven consumerism in the last couple of weeks. The supermarket has an online order and delivery system that has become the preferred method of shopping for many.
19-year-old Kelis Lamb is an employee at the Hoboken ShopRite who packs goods to be delivered via online orders. Recently, Lamb noticed an increase.
“Since the outbreak, we’ve had about 70 plus orders for each day … double the amount that we usually have daily,” said Lamb. She revealed that until recently average weekdays included only about 30 orders. Lately, those orders have surpassed the busy weekends, which typically include about 60 online orders. The main products people are requesting are wipes, Clorox, Lysol, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and hand soap — many of which are sold out.
“I feel like they are terrified that they are going to catch germs by stepping outside and touching products in the store,” said Lamb. “I mean they don’t know what we are touching when we are packing their orders, so it is something that I don’t really get.”
Recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the novel coronavirus has infected an estimated 135,000 people globally with numbers continuing to rise daily.
Despite an increase in cases locally and a national declaration of emergency, people in the delivery service industry continue with their normal routine of distributing packages to both businesses and homes.
FedEx employee Edgar Cardenas, who has worked for the company for seven years, hasn’t noticed a change in deliveries in recent days. However, he has been attentive to sanitizing his daily tools.
“We’re always cautious when the people have to sign for their packages,” said Cardenas. “We have to clean the screen with wipes.”
Although FedEx released a statement of concern for staff, Cardenas said he personally hasn’t heard anything from the company or seen any signs posted in the office.
Apart from delivery services, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft have released statements ensuring the public that they are taking measures to keep drivers and riders safe.
“We have partnered with EO Products, makers of Everyone, to distribute more than 200,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies to drivers, at no cost to them,” said Lyft in a statement released on Tuesday.
However, not everyone can afford private transportation to navigate through the city. In a recent statement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recommended that people use the subway less.
Despite de Blasio’s recommendation, New Yorkers remain dependent on public transit — including many people who pack or deliver everything from food to toilet paper so that it arrives at our doorsteps.