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Pandemic panic buying hits Orillia; 'It's been crazy,' says local grocer

'It's ridiculous,' says woman of people lining up to purchase toilet paper and hand sanitizer; 'It’s sad to watch people like that'

It’s a rare sight for a Friday in March — grocery store parking lots packed to the point you’d think it was the start of a summer long weekend.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shoppers streaming into stores and wiping out the toilet paper supply, as well as sanitation products.

“It’s been crazy,” said Max Foster, co-owner of Orillia’s Foodland.

His store, like most in town, has run out of toilet paper. A backup order was delivered Thursday, but it was gone by the end of the day. He expects more to come in Saturday.

“We still have lots of products. It’s just a few things,” Foster said.

Friends Kate Lee and Taylor Weiland were picking up groceries Friday at Food Basics in Orillia.

Weiland is a student at Western University in London. The school is moving to online courses for the rest of the semester, so the Barrie woman decided to move back home early. She and Lee, of Orillia, were getting some snacks and essentials at Food Basics. Fortunately, toilet paper was not on their list.

“We’re just getting a few things. We’re not going crazy,” said Lee, who described the panic buying as an “overreaction.”

“It’s good to be prepared,” added Weiland, “but no one’s going to go through a hundred rolls of toilet paper in a week.”

Metro, in downtown Orillia, was also packed with shoppers Friday afternoon, though no one seemed to be loading up on one specific item. Shelley, who didn’t want her last name used, was just trying to pick up a few items.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said of the long lineups and the people who are panic buying around the province. “It’s sad to watch people like that.”

Shelley said she had no plans to stock up on specific items.

“There’s no need for it,” she said. "It's an overreaction."

Grocery stores aren’t the only places that have been extra busy over the past few days. Laclie Pharmacy has seen an increased demand for various products, including toilet paper, hand sanitizer and thermometers. The business is going so far as to make its own sanitizer. Some has already been made and the store is waiting in the bottles for them to arrive.

“We will do our best to help people,” said Mary Connor, bookkeeper at Laclie Pharmacy.

The sanitizer will be limited to one per person and anyone interested should go to the store to inquire.

More toilet paper and thermometers are expected to be delivered to the business on Monday.

“You can see the panic in people, but I don’t think people should panic,” Connor said, urging caution rather than overreaction. “Stuff will be coming in.”