The Walmart Supercenter on 86th Street closed for a time Thursday after running out of just about everything due to a rush for supplies to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Kroger at Fishers had no bread, milk or disinfectant cleaning supplies.

A woman shopping at the Dollar General in Sheridan found they had some toilet paper left, but she had to climb shelves to reach it. Then she couldn’t find hand sanitizer a doctor sent her to buy for her elderly grandfather.

Another woman offered her hand sanitizer she had in her car for free. This came at the same time online auction site eBay was banning the sale of items related to the virus after hand sanitizer was selling for more than $35 a bottle, and officials were concerned about price gouging.

No one answered the phone at the Whitestown Meijer when the Times Sentinel called Friday to check on supply levels.

But Sunny Man, manager of Friendly Market in Whitestown, said he had plenty of toilet paper, and the hunt for it is driving new customers through his doors in the heart of historic Whitestown.

“A lot of people went to Meijer to buy it but they couldn’t find it, so they came to us,” Mann said.

Lowe’s in Whitestown, practically across the street from Meijer, advertised on social media Thursday that it had toilet paper by the bale still available.

The Lebanon IGA also had toilet paper, although it was dwindling Thursday, but manager Keri Worland said she expected more on Friday and didn’t anticipate any shortage from her suppliers. Mann said it may be some time before hand sanitizers return to shelves. The shortage of hand sanitizers may be a problem at the manufacturing level, not a matter of ordering form a warehouse, he said.

But Mann had plenty of Clorox and Lysol wipes and sprays and loads of hand soap, as did other stores surveyed, including the Sam’s Club in Lafayette, which was out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Lebanon’s IGA also had shelves full of hand soap.

“Nobody’s buying hand soap,” Worland said. “They come in and we don’t have hand sanitizer, and they leave. You know, soap and water does wonders, as well.

Handwashing is one of the Centers for Disease Control and Research’s main recommendations against the coronavirus.

“It’s just kind of shocking to me that soap sales haven’t jumped the same way as the other things,” Worland said. “I’m so baffled at how spazzy some of this stuff has been.”

The CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if a person is unable to wash their hands, and Kroger had sold out of 90% isopropyl alcohol and alcohol wound wipes Thursday.

Mann plans to remain in operation throughout the duration of the virus season. “We’re taking precautions if we’ve had contact with anyone who seems to be sick,” he said. “We’re doing extra cleaning and wiping door handles and other places and making sure we and our customers can stay safe.”

Worland said she stopped telling her customers to have a good day as they left this week, opting instead for “Wash your hands.”

There’s been a worldwide rush to hoard toilet paper in response to the spread of coronavirus, and no one seems to know exactly why.

People in Hong Kong panicked over toilet paper and started hoarding it in February, according to the website businessinsider.com, which reported that an armed gang robbed a Hong Kong shop of 600 toilet paper rolls in one day.

There is no shortage of toilet paper, the BBC and others have reported.

The CDC is recommending handwashing and hand sanitizer, not touching your face, avoiding sick people, and staying home if you’re sick. That’s oversimplifying a bit, but there are no recommendations including toilet paper in the CDC’s guidelines.

Although Public Health England did advise people to plan ahead for self-isolation, and that may have caused some of the rush for toilet paper in the United Kingdom.

Physiologists are suggesting that hoarding of everything from non-perishable food to toilet paper is a response to anxiety caused by not knowing how the virus will spread or how it will affect people.

“I think people want to make sure they have some comforts in their lives if they’re going to be shacked up with their family for a long time,” consumer behavior expert Dr. Rohan Miller told the BBC.

Maria Flora writes for The Lebanon Reporter. Email her at maria.flora@reporter.net.

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