Toilet paper

The toilet paper section at Food Lion in Perryville this week.

ELKTON — The run on essentials continues, say grocery store officials at the chains in Cecil County, but supplies trickle in; some better than others.

"Sanitizer is still in tightest demand," said Eric B. White, director of marketing for Redner's Markets, Inc. He said toilet paper and other paper goods are being allocated to each store. "As we get it we're shipping it out."

It's the same at Martin's in Rising Sun according to Ashley Flower, spokeswoman for the parent company, Giant.

"We are currently experiencing shortages and out of stocks on many household staples, including disinfecting and cleaning products," Flower said Wednesday. "We are focused on getting back in stock as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, Cecil County's farmers that operate farm stands on site and also participate in regional farmer's markets, were happy to find out Thursday that Maryland has deemed them "essential services" and could remain open.

Sarah Ryder at Flying Plow Farm in Rising Sun voiced concern earlier in the week. "If the farmers markets don't open next month what can we do to move our produce?"

Ryder said her farm stand on Johnson Farm Lane will now be open this Saturday but orders must be made in advance for pick up in a way that adheres to the social distancing edict.

She said she had record sales at a farmers market in Kennett Square, Pa. Friday with people eager to buy the leafy greens, carrots and potatoes grown here.

Wayne Stafford, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau and former president of the Cecil County Farm Bureau, also felt the farmer's markets and farm stands should be part of the essential services list.

"Grocery stores have more than 10 people in them," Stafford said, referring to the CDC guidelines on crowd size aimed at containing the spread of the virus. "It's hard to avoid all contact."

Michael Kincaid, current Cecil County Farm Bureau president, said he and Jonathan Quinn, 2nd vice president of the Maryland Farm Bureau and a Warwick farmer, were discussing the boundary issue too.

"In those butcher shops they're not six feet apart," Kincaid said. But these local butchers had product when the stores ran out. A call to Galvinell's in Conowingo found ground beef.

Stores, like banks and other businesses that have been able to remain open, have changed hours and operations to give employees more opportunity to clean and restock. Redner's, Dollar General and Martin's are among the chains that have also asked customers to allow senior citizens and other vulnerable populations access to the stores at opening. 

"We are requesting that our guests allow the first 90 minutes for those in high risk demographics," White said. Not just the elderly but also those with chronic health conditions, those who are immunosuppressed and pregnant or recently postpartum women are also at risk. Martin's and Dollar General have set the first hour aside.

In a further effort to stem the contamination, White said customers are also being asked not to bring reusable bags into the stores.

"They may be a carrier," White said, pointing to Centers for Disease Control guidance that COVID-19 can live on paper for 24 hours and metal and fabric surfaces for several days.

In an effort to make sure no one takes advantage of supplies at Food Lion stores there is a limit on how much one shopper can purchase according to Matt Harakal, manager of external communications.

Liquid soaps, hand sanitizers, rubbing alcohol and peroxide, 24- and 32-packs of bottled water, bath tissues and paper towels, household cleaners, bleach and dish detergent are limited to two per shopper.

"As we receive product daily, our associates are working as rapidly as possible to get it on the trucks, get the trucks on the road and delivered to our stores," Harakal said. "We will continue working with our large supply network in the most efficient way possible to get product to stores to help serve our neighbors who are counting on us during this unprecedented time of demand."

Meanwhile, Stafford said the pandemic has caused an ugly wrinkle for farmers who rely on migrant farm workers. Only those who already have acquired an H2A visa are allowed to enter the United States to do the seasonal farm work.

"They could still come, but now transportation is an issue," Stafford said. Airline traffic is almost to a standstill because of the virus outbreak.