Concerns surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) have led to panic buying across the nation at warehouse stores, big-box retailers, and Amazon. Lehi’s Costco and local grocery stores have also reported shortages on some supplies. “We are completely out of hand sanitizer and have had people buying up water and toilet paper like crazy,” said Cathrine Sampson, the night manager at Kohler’s in Lehi. “We have even sold several 50-gallon water drums over the weekend, and we have not sold one of those in ages,” she said. “We haven’t sold this much water and toilet paper in months, but so far we have been able to get more supplies without a problem–except for hand sanitizer, we are back-ordered on that.”  

“On Saturday night a lot of people came in to stockpile food and supplies, we had cartloads of stuff going out of here,” Sampson continued.

Costco stores around the globe are having a hard time keeping things like toilet paper and water on the shelves and in some areas are restricting purchases, according to an article posted by offgridsurvival.com.

“I went to Costco to buy flour, and they were out,” said one local customer. “They were also out of water.” “We get shipments every day and restock the floor, but we are sold out as quickly as we restock,” a Costco worker explained.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert addressed the issue on social media, “The spread of this illness will not affect our water supply — so stocking up on bottled water (while a good general emergency preparedness tip) does not need to be a priority,” he said. 

Herbert also made the following suggestions:

-Take basic steps to support your immune system — get enough sleep, eat nutritious food, stay physically active, and manage your stress.

– Plan if you or someone in your family needs to stay home for a few weeks. This could include getting some extra food supplies in your pantry, or a supply of prescription medications.

-Prevent the spread of all illnesses with common-sense measures like washing your hands often, covering your coughs and sneezes (but not with your hands), disinfecting frequently touched objects, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth

Gov. Herbert sets up a coronavirus task force and local testing setup

At a press conference held on March 2, Herbert announced the creation of a task force, the Utah Coronavirus Task Force, to mitigate the potential spread of coronavirus or COVID-19 in Utah. He appointed Lt. Governor Spencer Cox as head of the task force which will be comprised of government, civic and business leaders, as well as health professionals. Its mission is to monitor and coordinate collective efforts to protect Utahns from the COVID-19. The task force will meet at least once a week, and it will include representatives from education, business, healthcare, and the faith community. 

“Pandemics are, unfortunately, a very real part of human history. But no state is more prepared than Utah. It is part of our culture and DNA. I truly hope we never have to use any of these plans. But if we do, I can’t think of anywhere I would rather be,” said Cox on social media. “More than anything else, the takeaway from this should be that 1) The state is doing everything possible to prepare and avoid as much disruption as possible and 2) You should too. Families, employment, schools, churches—think through what you would do if you had to miss two weeks,” Cox said.

Dr. Angela Dunn, the State Epidemiologist at Utah Department of Health, was appointed to the task force. Dunn said the current risk to Utahns for COVID-19 is “low”. The state has tested 17 Utahns and so far, 15 of those tests were negative, and two results are still pending.  

A website www.coronavirus.utah.gov has also been created to post updated information. The task force can also be followed on Twitter @UtahCoronavirus.

The Utah Department of Health announced on March 2 that the state lab will begin conducting testing for COVID-19. Lab results will have a quick 24-hour turnaround. Utah has 400 test kits from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and may get more. Any positive tests will be sent to the CDC for further testing and confirmation, according to the UDH.

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