Coronavirus fears send Bay Area shoppers into panic mode

Many customers are seeing a common sight at some Bay Area stores—empty shelves. This, as people stock up in an apparent attempt to stem the widening Coronavirus outbreak.

Business recruiter Teresa Chimienti is on a mission to fill a shopping list at the Target Store at Market Place in San Jose. Her list partly contains preventive measures for colds brought on by viruses.

“You don’t know if this starts to spread, and then we have to be on lockdown. And I don’t want to be stuck, and depending on a neighbor. I wanna be prepared,” she said.

This is becoming common thinking. Some stores around the Bay Area are seeing nearly bare shelves as works say there’s a rush to stockpile over-the-counter medicines. But many health experts advise washing hands is the best defense.

“If you’re around someone close enough, to catch the virus, there’s nothing you can take that’s going to prevent you. Because if that something was out there, we’d all be on it,” said internal medicine specialist Dr. Runijhun Misra. “Whenever you have a viral illness, you’re going to be treating the symptoms.”

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Worse than that, the sudden sales surge for these types of products, and growing uncertainty, could give the red hot U.S. economy a cold.

“There’s no way this could be good for the economy. You know, people are taking precautions. Staying away from work. Not traveling. So I’m sure this will have a negative effect on things like GDP,” said Doctor Matthew Holian, a San Jose State University professor of microeconomics.

GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is a measurement of everything produced in the country. It’s also a bellwether of the overall health of the economy. GDP grew at a little more than 2% in the fourth quarter of 2019, but that growth could slow if Cornonavirus spreads and more people change their behavior to reduce the risk.

“I’m traveling soon to San Antonio. That’s a concern,” said business traveler Alan Soldofsky. “I’m taking a risk.”

It’s a new version of risky business – one where professionals and everyday people are better off combatting this threat by washing their hands. But an increasing number are making a list and checking it twice, to try to avoid catching the Coronavirus.

“Better safe than sorry,” said Chimienti.