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NOT MUCH TO CHOOSE FROM — At the Publix supermarket on DeLand’s north end, shelves normally overflowing with toilet paper and paper towels were completely barren Friday, March 13. People around West Volusia have been stocking up on necessities including paper products, food and items to keep them comfortable during a possible extended quarantine period, if necessary.

There is nothing as fast-acting and fast-spreading as fear.

Investors in the stock markets are selling their shares in panic, and consumers in the supermarkets are buying household goods in panic.

Coronavirus has triggered the herd instinct, sparking a huge demand for items people would buy in advance of a hurricane.

People who may otherwise laugh at the idea of survivalists hoarding food, medicine, fuel and other products now find themselves stocking up on such things as bath tissue, bottled water, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, disinfectant sprays and bleach, as well as canned goods such as soup and tuna.

“In the 18 years I have been here, we have never run out of toilet paper,” an employee of BJ’s Wholesale in Sanford said.

Yet, the shelves where tissue is displayed inside the store are empty.

The same is true at other stores in the area, as customers fear they may be unable to obtain the tissue and other hygiene products.

Publix, like other merchants, is trying to keep up with the sudden demand for things shoppers often assume “will always be there.”

“We are helping our communities prepare by replenishing the stock of essential products such as Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, bleach, water, canned goods and paper products,” Maria Brous, Publix’s director of communications, wrote in an email response to query by The Beacon. “We continue to make daily deliveries to our stores and are collaborating with our supplier community, industry groups and community partners.”

Brous added the stores are now rationing the sales of certain things, limiting each customer to two items of the same type, such as face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and disposable eating wares like paper plates.

“Limits are in place, company wide, until further notice,” she added.

The Beacon contacted other retail chains, but, so far, no responses have been received.