Costco announced it will be limiting the number of people inside stores and reducing some services to curb the spread of the coronavirus as panicked shoppers flood grocery stores to stock up on supplies.
Long lines outside Costco locations and empty shelves have become the norm across California in recent weeks, even as officials urged residents to stay home and stand at least six feet apart when outside.
Costco is taking steps to control the number of customers in warehouses, asking members and employees to practice social distancing and also reducing some services, Costco Wholesale’s president Craig Jelinek said in a message to members Tuesday.
Jelinek didn’t elaborate on the services being reduced but photos on social media show signs indicating that some Costco locations are not accepting returns on toilet paper, paper towels, sanitizing wipes and water.
The wholesaler also placed limits on certain items to prevent hoarding. Fears of coronavirus spread have led to a run on items like toilet paper and disinfecting products.
Costco also said it is sanitizing surfaces, including shopping cart handles, merchandise shelves, front-end belts and registers.
Long lines of hundreds of customers were seen outside a Costco location in Commerce as early as 5 a.m. Friday, the morning after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million residents to stay home to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Customers rushed to stand in line after carrying shopping carts over the cart corrals, which were still locked up in the early hours of the morning.
Grocery stores are exempt from the governor’s order since they are deemed an essential service, along with gas stations, pharmacies, farmers markets, food banks and convenience stores.