It started several weeks ago: shoppers piling baskets high with toilet paper interspersed with cleaning wipes and other household necessities, thinning the shelves at major retailers of those products.
Now, as many major retailers in Albuquerque see their stock of toilet paper emptied by consumers worried about COVID-19, those in the manufacturing industry are saying rumors of a true toilet paper shortage are false.
“There’s no ongoing concern or shortage that anyone is aware of,” said Larry Sonntag spokesman of the New Mexico Business Coalition in a Friday interview.
Sonntag, whose organization is New Mexico’s affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers, said that, although shelves are empty amid the panic surrounding the new coronavirus, toilet paper manufacturers have reported no shortages.
The lack of product available for purchase is largely due to consumers “hoarding and purchasing” the toilet paper in large quantities, Sonntag said.
Sonntag said “it’s a matter of weeks, not a matter of months” for shoppers to start seeing toilet paper back in stock.
While this may not be the first time retailers have seen their inventory of toilet paper depleted, Sonntag said this is the first instance he knew of “that has to deal with a health issue.”
“Nobody can put the nail on the head with what this has to do with coronavirus,” he said.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms that would lead sufferers to increase their use of toilet paper don’t appear on the CDC’s symptom list.
Several toilet paper manufacturers have announced they are working to meet demand.
Georgia-Pacific, a major U.S. manufacturer of toilet paper and other paper products, has taken to social media to assure customers it is working to adjust. In a Twitter post this week, the company said it was not experiencing production issues and would be ramping up production to meet the increased demand.
Procter & Gamble said that it is still manufacturing and shipping of Charmin, and it is working to fix availability problems, The Washington Post reported Friday.
Despite the assurances, local retailers are seeing their shelves emptied. Walmart said it is working to restock high-demand items and would be diverting items to areas in the greatest need.
And it’s not just toilet paper. In recent days, other staples such as pasta and frozen meals have been harder to find, with some stores running out completely.
Friday afternoon, the Walmart Market on Cutler near San Mateo was completely emptied of flour, rice, boxed meals, dish soap and eggs.
The hoarding of necessities prompted both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller to issue statements urging people to stop hoarding items.
“The hoarding of cleaning supplies, soap, food and water or other basic goods is also inappropriate and detrimental to the community’s ability to respond as needed to this crisis,” Keller said in a news release.