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Fearing coronavirus, Costco shoppers hoard food, water, TP

Shoppers stockpiling food, water and paper products are clearing out local Costco stores as they prepare for the coronavirus outbreak to hit Las Vegas.

“It’s serious, really. I don’t want the worst to happen, but I think we should be ready,” said Alaina Ortiz, just after her husband had finished balancing a 10th case of water on one of their two shopping carts.

Ortiz was one of a horde of shoppers who had flooded the Costco on Martin Luther King Boulevard on Monday afternoon. People bumped carts and shoulders as they squeezed pallets full of water and nonperishable foods through the aisles.

Health officials in Nevada don’t doubt that the disease, COVID-19, will spread to the state, especially as more cases are reported in Western states. Reported cases of the virus are on the rise across the United States, and by Monday evening health officials had reported six deaths from the virus in Washington state.

Ortiz said the 10 cases of bottled water were “overkill,” even for her family of five. She wasn’t sure where they would store the water once they got home.

“But you know, we have neighbors. Some are older, and they could use it,” she said.

At two locations, on Decatur Boulevard in the north valley and in Summerlin, the stores were sold out of toilet paper and bottled water.

In Summerlin, some dejected shoppers abandoned their shopping carts in the empty space where the goods once sat, while others took a detour and settled for baby wipes and Gatorade.

While Ortiz was trying to prepare for disaster, 22-year-old Ty Braun was just picking up dinner for his roommates.

“All these people, freaking out and buying stuff up like it’s the end of the world,” he said. “Nothing’s even happening here yet.”

Braun said he hadn’t seen the same rush of pandemic preppers at any store but Costco.

While shoppers swamped the Costco on MLK, a Smith’s less than 2 miles away on Rancho Drive was still fully stocked with essentials.

And near the Costco on Decatur, there was plenty of water and toilet paper at a Walgreens in the same shopping center. Walgreens was, however, sold out of all masks and scent-free hand sanitizing products.

“Now, this disease and epidemic stuff that’s on the news, I don’t know what’s going to happen with all that,” said Jim Gallo, a 53-year-old single dad with two teenage sons.

He packed his cart with four cases of instant noodles, bags of rice and beans and a lot of Spam. It’s all food that he knows his sons will eat.

“What happens, happens,” Gallo said. “But if it don’t happen, I have all this food and I don’t have to come back here for a while.”

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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