HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amid growing fears about a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in the US, public health officials nationally and locally are urging people to prepare.
But officials are also urging residents not to “panic buy.”
The Hawaii Foodbank on Wednesday said that stockpiling high-demand items can have negative impacts on food pantries, reducing how much is donated to them.
“We are asking the public please do not make this an event,” said Hawaii Foodbank President and CEO Ron Mizutani. “So far, we do not have a reason to be purchasing that kind of food. I call it fear hoarding.”
Mayor Kirk Caldwell echoed that message, asking people not to “over-react."
No one is currently being investigated or quarantined for coronavirus in the state.
But the state Health Department has urged residents to have a 14-day supply of food, water and other necessities on hand in case a coronavirus outbreak forces people to stay home.
Residents appear to have heard that message.
Many people worried about coronavirus headed to big box retailers to stock up on supplies. There was no widespread panic and supplies were being re-stocked quickly.
Personal shopper Laura Williams says lots of her customers getting key supplies.
“They are fearing that they are being a little irrational. They’re hoping they’re being a little irrational better safe than sorry,” Williams said.
She says her clients want toilet paper, canned goods and other non-perishable items and she’s thinking she should prepare, too.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is also an ER doctor, is urging calm and said that the seasonal flu remains a bigger concern. “If you are feeling flu-ish, fever, aches right now you don’t have coronavirus, I’m almost certain, you have flu,” Green said.
He added that if there is an outbreak, the state has 166 air isolation rooms. Test kits for coronavirus won’t be available in Hawaii until mid-March.