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Concern over COVID-19 surfacing in the County

Most of the shoppers at No Frills in Picton Thursday night had full carts.

Many who were conflicted about the effects of the COVID-19 virus are now concerned and are turning their focus to hand-washing, stocking up on groceries, gasoline and stock-piling toilet paper.

Grocery stores in the County have been busier for the past few weeks but were packed with shoppers filling their carts to overflowing Thursday following several announcements that seemed to spark the call to stock up on canned goods, beans, rice, pasta, and the panic-buying of toilet paper to the point where some shops’ shelves are empty.

Toilet paper aisle wiped clean at Picton Metro following a day full of COVID-19 news updates.

“When you can really relate to something happening, that’s when people change their thinking on these things,” said one shopper waiting in one of several 12-person lines at the No Frills in Picton Thursday night. “I wasn’t concerned before all the news today. Now I feel like I have to do something other than just washing my hands more, and not touching my face.”

Late Thursday afternoon the province announced all publicly-funded schools in Ontario will close for two weeks following March Break – meaning elementary and secondary schools will be closed March 15 to April 5.

Major league sports seasons are now on hold, as are the games for the Wellington Dukes and Picton Pirates, and the JUNO Awards and large entertainment venues are cancelling events. Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began a 14-day isolation after wife Sophie tested positive for coronavirus following a meeting in the UK. Fans are also concerned that actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson have tested positive for coronavirus.

Carts at Metro were also filled – several with mostly cookies, snacks and pop.

Since Canada’s health minister encouraged people to stockpile medicines and some supplies in case of a coronavirus outbreak, news and social media have filled with reports of shortages of sanitizers, toilet paper, and some non-perishable foods.

This piggy-backs supply issues some retailers had following the rail blockades, and are now ramped up with COVID-19 concerns.

Whatever the reasons, Picton Sobeys owner Jamie Yeo says his store is doing its best to keep up, but is beginning to struggle with keeping up some of the stock.

“We have seen an increase in the demand for cleaning supplies, cleaning wipes, bathroom tissue, hand sanitizer, canned goods and pet food,” he said, noting certain supplies like hand sanitizer are just not available right now.

“It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better so all we can do is prepare, and get ready, and hope that it turns around.”

Shoppers Ken and Susan always did stock up on supplies like soap, toilet paper and canned goods, but would only step up on stocking up if a COVID-19 case was found in Prince Edward County.

“I think we have to be cautious, but I don’t think that it is to that point yet where people need to be buying out the store of supplies,” said Susan.

Ken agreed. “People get panicky all the time. We haven’t reached there yet.”

The two had planned to travel to British Columbia in June, but are now unsure whether they’ll be able to make the trip.

Scott Foster said earlier in the week he wasn’t overly worried about COVID-19 and was looking forward to attending Wednesday’s Blue Jays exhibition game in Montreal. He was going to go whether the game was cancelled, or not.

“I am going to try to wash my hands more, and all that, but I won’t be buying extra food and supplies, or changing what I do,” he said. “I will keep living as I have. I am aware of it, but don’t think it’s a threat to me yet.”

Tyler Shettell’s concern is for the County as a whole.

“The County specifically has one of the oldest populations in Ontario, and in the event of an outbreak it has the potential to have a major impact on the community.”

Despite his concerns, he says he’s not wheeling out a full grocery cart anytime soon.

“I don’t necessarily believe in stocking up or panic hoarding,” he said. “I think that this can make problems worse than they already are.”

He also said he trusts Ontario’s health care system and that he plans on taking precautions.

There are 138 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada as of Thursday – 59 in Ontario. Hastings Prince Edward Public Health reported its first case of COVID-19 in the region March 11. An individual at Canadian Forces Base Trenton tested positive, having arrived March 9 aboard the flight of Canadians repatriated from the Grand Princess cruise ship off California.

“I’m just here for candy and storm chips,” said Elizabeth, in the grocery store line up Thursday night. “I hear there might be a lot of rain and wind tonight. Gotta have storm chips.”

Click these links for more:
– County prepping for COVID-19 potential impact

– Visit the Government of Canada’s website for detailed updates, travel advice, how to be prepared, and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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