Pittsburgh-area grocers implement purchase limits on hard-to-find items and new disinfecting routines amid coronavirus shopping rush

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A sign at the Giant Eagle in Aspinwall encourages customers to only take what they need on March 12, when shoppers started a run on stores. (Photo by Nicole C. Brambila/PublicSource)

A sign at the Giant Eagle in Aspinwall encourages customers to only take what they need on March 12, when shoppers started a run on stores. (Photo by Nicole C. Brambila/PublicSource)

Editor’s note: A reader wrote in to PublicSource about what local grocers are doing to restock and stay safe. Below we have some information from two of the area’s largest grocers and we will update if we get additional information. Email nicole@publicsource.org with new questions.

That hard-to-find case of water or package of toilet paper is getting restocked on shelves locally.

But you might be limited to the number of packages you can snag on your next trip to the grocery store.

The area’s largest grocers said they are working to restock shelves after a rush of panic buying in Pittsburgh that began last Thursday in the wake of growing concerns over the coronavirus and the government shutdown of schools and non-essential services.

Giant Eagle, the largest grocery chain in the Pittsburgh metro area with nearly 70 stores and GetGos, has put purchase limits on the following items:

  •       Cases of bottled water – four per guest.
  •       Paper products such as paper towels and toilet paper – one package each per guest.
  •       Bread – two per guest. 
  •       Milk – two per guest. 
  •       Disinfectant wipes – one per guest. 

Store managers at Walmart, the region’s second largest grocery provider, will set quantity limits at their discretion, according to a March 10 statement.

With Gov. Tom Wolf encouraging Pennsylvanians to stay at home, it isn’t necessary to make that grocery store trip. Giant Eagle and Walmart both offer curbside pick-up and home delivery for less than $10.

(Aldi and Shop ‘n Save also have home delivery through Instacart.com. And, Amazon Prime members can get their Whole Food purchase delivered.

Local grocery stores have implemented new operational hours to allow for restocking and to disinfect the store. 

Here is a list of operation hours for some of the region’s largest stores:

Giant Eagle 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Walmart 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Aldi 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Jannah Jablonowski, a Giant Eagle spokeswoman, said Tuesday, March 17, that employees will be disinfecting high-touch areas such as the check-out lanes every hour.

While the panicked hoarding sends a scarcity message to other consumers, it also puts grocery store workers at risk. Food retailers have told the New York Times and ProPublica that the empty shelves are not a sign of a failing supply chain but rather the grocers themselves having difficulty in restocking.

For the health and safety of shoppers and employees, Jablonowski said, Giant Eagle is encouraging workers to use hand sanitizer between interactions with customers and to regularly wash their hands. 

Because Giant Eagle deliveries are done daily, Jablonowski encouraged shoppers to shop as you normally would. An empty shelf, she said, does not mean they’re out of product.

“You don’t need to panic,” Jablonowski said. “We’re working through the day’s inventory. It is product that we have in our warehouse. It’s just a matter of getting it from the warehouse to our stores.”

Nicole C. Brambila is the local government reporter for PublicSource. She can be reached at 412-515-0072 or nicole@publicsource.org.

PublicSource has a special page dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for the Pittsburgh region. See it here and sign up for our newsletter to stay informed. We hope you are following the news and, if your situation allows, social distancing guidelines.  Have a tip or an idea? Please email mila@publicsource.org.

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