At least three of the Bay Area’s five counties have opted to increase capacity limits on allowed customers inside at any given time to combat panic buying, and hoarding as the state’s stay-at-home orders are set to be implemented.
Up to 35% more people would be allowed in grocery stores in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin counties, a 15% increase from last week’s announced 20%. After the California Grocers Association, the decision was made that lower capacity limits would result in longer waiting lines and force residents to panic buy and hoard items.
The president and CEO of the California Grocers Association in Sacramento, Ronald Fong, said, “Twenty percent capacity, I think that causes a rush to grocery stores,” He noted that the pandemic along with stricter protocols would cause people to panic and overbuy and would cause longer lines which beats the purpose of the protocols.
Fong noted his team cooperated with the governor’s office over the weekend and agreed on a 35% increase, a compromise between 20% and 50%. Currently, San Francisco grocery stores limit customer capacity to 20%, and officials revealed they were discussing revising the limits after the state’s update. On Tuesday, Santa Clara County officials said they would not be adjusting the region’s 25% limits yet.
The orders would still allow grocery stores to opt to limit customers inside their stores to less than the 20% order. In San Francisco, Bi-Rite and Rainbow Grocery chose to keep the number of customers allowed inside their chains to a maximum of 20%, as they have done since April.
Fong added that grocery stores were different from other retail establishments as they have been allowed to continue operating while nonessential retailers were closed down when the March stay-at-home orders were implemented. He added groceries had more use than some things like clothing stores.
Many people do not have the luxury of being able to order their necessities online and must shop in-person. Experts said the increased limits while maintaining safe social distancing measures were crucial in supporting residents amid the pandemic. They added that people should be aware that the U.S. has a robust food supply, ensuring that no shortages would occur unless people begin to hoard or if labor workers are negatively affected.
A professor of operations and technology and supply chain management expert at Cornell Tech in New York City, Karan Girotra, said the pandemic has caused supply chains to be reorganized to more appropriately to accommodate people staying at home, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Experts believe the number of people going out to buy their necessities at grocery stores would increase as restaurants close down indoor and outdoor dining. Increasing customer capacity would help avoid long waiting lines and hoarding. However, the holiday season would most likely be an exception as more customers are expected to rush into stores.
Fong said that the panic buying that the Bay Area experienced over the weekend before the health orders went into effect were unnecessary. He said, “There’s plenty of food. There’s no need to rush, and we all need to do what we can to shop responsibly.”