Bay Area Counties Tighten Restrictions to Curb Panic Buying, Enforce Social Distancing

San Mateo County legislation would limit buyers to four of each item if hoarding doesn't stop

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Long lines and empty shelves have become the new normal during the coronavirus pandemic, but one San Mateo County supervisor is considering a new law aimed at forcing shoppers to stop purchasing more than they need.

Supervisor Joe Canepa is considering new countywide legislation that would limit shoppers to four of any given item.

“I’ve told the grocery association this,” said Canepa. “I’ve given them about a month to see if this works and if the lines continue to show like this, we’re going to have to call for immediate action. I will propose legislation that I initially proposed, and that is to limit shoppers to just the purchase of four items.”

The Bay Area is nearing the end of the second week of shelter at home orders, and grocers across the region report that some shoppers are continuing to snap up some food and supplies faster than they can restock.

Some items, like masks, disinfectant and others continue to be unavailable in stores or online.

But according to the California Grocers Association, the pandemic has not disrupted the food supply chain. There are plenty of groceries and other necessities available, but it takes time for trucks to deliver and store workers to restock everything because of the recent high demand.

Canepa said he would model his legislation after policies that some stores have already adopted, such as capping the purchase of certain items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

A supervisor in San Mateo County is considering implementing new countywide legislation to crack down on hoarding during the coronavirus pandemic. The plan would limit shoppers to four of each item. Sergio Quintana reports.

In San Francisco, local corner stores are seeing another problem.

In neighborhoods across the city, corner stores have been a lifeline for those who cannot drive miles to an area supermarket -- but at night, people have been congregating outside the stores, sparking fear that people are not practicing social distancing.

"We've had a challenge with some of our local corner stores where people are congregating outside and sort of attracting crowds," said San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney. "And we really want people to stay home."

Mayor London Breed announced a new order that took effect Sunday requiring all stores that are 5,000 square feet or smaller and that sell alcohol close by 8 p.m.

In dense neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, the order affects several businesses.

Nelson Gonzalez, a corner store employee, said he's actually happy about the new rule, believing it will be safer with fewer people out.

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