Again without toilet paper: Ómicron leaves empty gondolas in the United States

Early in the pandemic, people went out compulsively buying industrial quantities of toilet paper with no reason in sight to justify the madness. For different reasons, the very basic input missing again on the shelves of supermarkets in the United States. But it is not the only thing that is lacking. Actually, everything is missing.

«It’s not as dramatic as last Sunday, but there are still a lot of empty shelves,» says Justin Toone, a regular supermarket customer, disappointed. The pandemic continues to affect supply chains and many supermarkets in the United States are facing product shortages.

«For several days in a row, there were no fruits or vegetables in this Giant (the one in Bethesda) but not in all the supermarkets in the sector, Trader Joe’s or Safeway,» says Toone.

Some products are not found, laments another 64-year-old client who asks to remain anonymous. «A couple of days ago, I was just looking for baking soda to make a cake, impossible to find. Now, same thing for spices to make soup. Last week was worse,» she says angrily.

In other stores they are honey, eggs, milk or meat products that have disappeared from the shelves.

In Washington and neighboring states Maryland and Virginia, the snow has exacerbated this problem recurrent shortages since the start of the covid-19 pandemic.

Empty tissue and toilet paper shelves at a Miami Beach supermarket. Photo: AFP

«There are not enough truck drivers and because they are subject to strict regulations regarding hours of work and rest, they say ‘we are going to stop’, well, they stop and they do not supply us,» explains an employee of the Giant supermarket in Bethesda who has been there. for eight years and wishes to remain anonymous.

when snow falls, it’s even worse.

sick employees

At the beginning of the pandemic, due to fear of shortages, there was an avalanche of demand for some products such as toilet paper, which generated shortages. «This time it’s different» the clerk said.



per million inhab.


per million inhab.

Fountain: Johns Hopkins
Chart: Flourish | Infographic: Clarion

«The omicron variant is so contagious that it has an almost simultaneous impact throughout the United States,» said Patrick Penfield of Syracuse University.

A multitude of employees throughout the food production chain are sick or quarantined, which completely disrupts the supply chain.

«We cannot produce as much food as we need. There are not enough people to deliver the food, and even when food is delivered at the supermarket, there is no one to download them or put them on the shelves,» says Penfield.

A little.  Baby formula in short supply in Chicago.  Photo: AFP

A little. Baby formula in short supply in Chicago. Photo: AFP

The phenomenon is widespread throughout the country, but it is more significant in regions that also face bad weather, such as Washington.

And in the case of fresh products, easily perishable, it is impossible to store them too far in advance, in anticipation of bad weather.

hence the shelves completely empty on Sunday, when it had snowed overnight from Thursday to Friday. For the professor, the shortage of food products is likely to last until the end of March.

That, «if everything goes back to normal and no new variant«he says cautiously.

The National Federation of Trade (NGA), which represents independent players in the food retail sector, also notes that labor shortages continue «nationally, putting pressure on essential industries such as supermarkets and the food industry.» food in general.

In a recent survey of its 1,500 members, several «reported operating their stores at less than 50% of its capacity normal work, for short periods, at the height of the wave» of pollution.

In addition, the federation warns consumers that they should still expect «sporadic interruptions» as has happened for a year and a half.

Meanwhile, supermarket workers are trying to find solutions to fill the gap.

They fill the first rows. The products that are available crowd the shelves and for scarce products they only put a few at a time to prevent the same customer Take the few that there are.

With information from AFP