QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Covid-19, Day 79

San Francisco went into "shelter in place" rules yesterday. Walking the dogs, I've seen the streets eerily quiet. Restaurants are open for take out only. The bars are all shuttered. Many businesses are closed or reduced hours. Hardly anyone is walking or driving anywhere. To judge by this Reuters photo collection, it's not just San Francisco but world wide.

Yesterday there were anouncements that taxes will be postponed and there's talk of a $1000 check for every taxpayer in the US. Details are still thin, but:

March 18 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 index tumbled 7% on Wednesday, triggering a 15-minute trading halt of Wall Street’s main indexes for the second time this week, on fears that stimulus measures may not be enough to avert a coronavirus-driven recession.
(From Reuters today.) Here's the "trading curbs" (aka "circuit breakers") that have happened recently:

datewhat happened
March 9, 2020Dow fell 7.8%
March 12, 2020Dow fell 10%
March 16, 2020Dow fell 12.9%
March 18, 2020Dow down 8.3% so far today

That's 34% down from the high of 29,551 on February 12th.

It was days ago that I went shopping, but it was crazy then. In these fast moving times, what's true one day might not be true the next. Still, last Saturday I went to seven stores of various types. Normally I shop on Sunday, but I wanted to get it over with sooner. In order:

1 Pet Food Express: no crowds, no noticible shortages (even in the cleaning supplies). I got pet food.

2 Discount Builder's Supply: they are rationing masks, and short on some cleaning supplies. I got some wood (for baseboard) and weatherstipping. I looked at doormats but did not get one.

3 Bed Bath and Beyond: Terrible, terrible line. I went in wanting a new doormat, I left without even looking at their stock. I did not see much of the shelves. This is a store that manages to make four customers waiting for three registers seem to take forever. When the line snakes to the back of the store, yikes.

4 Trader Joe's: Crowded and empty, empty shelves. Basically no meat, frozen food, canned food, or jarred food. I wanted hot dogs, tomato sauce, and nuts from there. I got nuts. Line was short. They had someone going around and sani-wiping the counters by the cash registers after every customer.

empty shelves at TJ's

I was far from the only person snapping pictures of empty shelves here. As I took this, a worker said it had been full on Monday.

5 Rainbow Coop: This is were I usually do the bulk of my grocery shopping. It is a vegetarian store, so I need to go elsewhere for meats. Otherwise it usually has a good selection of the stuff I need. I couldn't get some stuff because the bulk foods were closed.

papered over bulk bins

And then the non-bulk versions had sold out. Mostly not empty shelves, the canned beans were mostly gone, and (eg) no basmati rice (normally I buy from bulk); there was specialty stuff like paella rice. The bread section however was a blank slate.

empty bread shelves

My guess is they were not getting bread deliveries. The lines were insanely bad. I've never, even in Thanksgiving peak, seen lines longer than about three or four people there.

in a line to the back of the store

All of the staff, and many of the customers, at Rainbow were wearing disposable gloves. One staff member and a few of the customers had face masks.

6 Smart Food Service: I usually hit this up about once every 4 to 6 weeks. It's open to the public but aimed at supplying restaurants. It's my Costco substitute these days. They had hot dogs, but not a brand I knew and only in 48(?) packs. I got a pineapple and a big can of peaches in syrup. A 3kg can, I'd have gotten jarred ones from TJ's or Rainbow if they were available there. I used to buy them from Costco, where they came as a four pack of jars probably totalling 3kg, but I've let my membership lapse. Very few empty shelves, but the parking lot was full, something I'd never seen before. On the other hand, the line was shorter than usual.

7 Molly Stone's: this is my normal walk-to grocery, but it's expensive, so I don't get much stuff there. The soup section was pretty thin, and some veggies and cleaing supplies were out. No bakery bread there either, but they had some plastic bagged bread. I also got hot dogs (two $9 packs, Niman Ranch) and a whole chicken (organic free range, $24). I ended up spending about $98 there, possibly a record for a day I'm not buying booze. They do have a nice liquor aisle. I have seen people rack up over $1000 purchases in that store, with most of that spend alcoholic.

I didn't take pictures of the stores that were normal or near normal. Now I'm regretting that.