Multiple California counties increase number of customers allowed in stores to prevent panic buying


Multiple Bay Area counties under strict stay-at-home advisories have eased crowd limits in grocery stores in order to try and deter residents from panic buying.

Grocery stores in Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin counties will now allow up to 35% of their total indoor capacity, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The limit was increased from 20%, which some industry leaders said would lead to longer lines, frenzied buying and stockpiling.

The chief executive of the California Grocers Association in Sacramento, Ronald Fong, noted that limiting stores to 20% capacity “causes a rush,” according to the outlet.

People wait in line to enter a Whole Foods Market supermarket while observing social distancing requirements in Lafayette, California on March 29, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
“People panic, they overbuy and we see longer lines – and that’s just not safe to do during the pandemic,” he said.

In recent weeks, Fong has stressed that stores need to remind customers to plan ahead to avoid crowds, especially during the busy holiday season.

The newly enacted 35% limit was the result of a compromise between the CGA, which represents more than 6,000 food stores and grocery supplier companies, and the governor’s office, which was negotiating between 20% and 50%, the outlet reported.

In nearby San Francisco, only standalone grocery stories will be able to operate at 50% capacity, according to CGA. However, nearby Santa Clara County is only allowing grocery stores, drug stores and pharmacies to operate at 25% capacity.

Health officers for the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara as well as the City of Berkeley, implemented the state’s regional stay home order earlier this week due to the rise in cases and hospitalizations.

Under the order, residents are ordered to stay home except for permitted work, local shopping or other permitted errands,