Hoarders back stripping store shelves of paper

HARLINGEN — They’re back for more.

Hoarders are back for toilet paper and other paper products weeks after they sparked a national shortage of items such as rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer.

In Harlingen, the second wave of hoarding started shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday, when Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. issued an order mandating employees and customers at businesses wear facial coverings to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus amid climbing case numbers.

Mayor Chris Boswell, who has stressed grocery stores aren’t going to close or run out of food and supplies amid the COVID-19 outbreak, condemned what he calls “panic buying.”

“There’s no reason to hoard anything,” Boswell said Thursday.

Outside of H-E-B’s Commerce Street store, Raven Villegas said fear drives some residents to hoard.

“They’re scared of the coronavirus,” Villegas, a home health provider, said. “People don’t know what’s really going on. It’s scary.”

Villegas said some are stocking up for what they believe will be a second state order requiring residents without justifiable reasons to stay home to limit exposure to the virus.

“I think there’s going to be another lockdown because a lot of people aren’t doing social distancing,” she said, referring to guidelines requiring residents keep six-foot distances between themselves and others to prevent the virus’ spread.

However, Boswell stressed officials don’t plan to issue a second round of state orders mandating those without justifiable reasons stay home.

“There are absolutely no discussions of that,” he said. “I haven’t heard that at any layer of government.”

As she loaded her groceries in her car, Shirley Davis said empty shelves make her feel uneasy.

“It makes people feel insecure,” Davis, a retired school teacher, said.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Davis said. “If people hoard, when someone really needs something, it’s not there.”

At about 6 p.m. Wednesday, Treviño issued the order mandating businesses to require customers and employees wear facial coverings to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The order effective at 12:01 a.m. today doesn’t supersede Gov. Greg Abbott’s May 1 state order, which barred local governments from imposing facial covering mandates.

However, Abbott’s order also allows local governments to require businesses to impose facial covering mandates on customers and employees.

“Had we known and implemented this method of enforcement statewide, maybe we would have avoided some of this huge increase in cases that we’ve had in the last three weeks,” Treviño said Tuesday. “I wish this would have been clear from Day One.”

Since June 1, the county’s new COVID-19 cases have climbed from 799 to 1,301.

In March, H-E-B stressed the Texas grocery giant had adequate supplies in its warehouses to stock its stores.