Coronavirus concerns prompt shopping chaos at SoCal stores despite warnings from officials

Despite warnings from local, state and national leaders, grocery stores in Southern California and nationwide have been stripped bare by shoppers panicked by the coronavirus outbreak.

From President Donald Trump to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, officials have urged the public not to panic buy. But shelves have been left barren as increased coronavirus cases and restrictions for the public, including new guidelines on gatherings and travel, have put some Americans on edge.

Chaos broke out at several Costco stores around the Southland, with long lines and people stockpiling goods.

RELATED: SoCal stores adjust hours to restock, meet high demands amid coronavirus outbreak

At a Costco in Azusa on Sunday, a massive line of customers stretched out of the parking lot and down the street. A Costco employee told an Eyewitness News viewer who captured the scene - which took more than one minute to film - that the first shopper arrived at 5 a.m., despite the store not opening until 9:45 a.m.

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At a Costco in Azusa on Sunday, a massive line of customers stretched out of the parking lot and down the street.

A similar scene occurred at a Costco in Commerce on Monday morning, as hundreds of people packed the wholesale warehouse's parking lot - with lines extending about a quarter of a mile down the street.

The store imposed a limit of one package per customer for toilet paper, baby wipes and water.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti discussed the food supply at local grocery stores during a press conference Monday morning in which he reassured shoppers in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

"There's plenty of food, and toilet paper and paper towels will be replenished quickly," Garcetti said. "Hoarding is hurting our community, so please don't do that. And your behavior isn't just bad, it can cost somebody their life."

Garcetti on Sunday ordered a sweeping set of restrictions on businesses in the city, closing gyms, bars and movie theaters and in-person dining in restaurants to help contain the potentially deadly virus.

RELATED: Garcetti orders closures of bars, gyms, theaters, in-person dining in restaurants to contain coronavirus

Garcetti added that restaurants may no longer serve food in-person in their dining rooms. But they will be allowed to continue serving by delivery, takeout and drive-thru.

"This is an absolutely critical moment in our city's history," Garcetti said. "Our decisions will determine the fate of loved ones. Our decisions and actions will determine the length of this crisis, the damage done to our economy and ultimately how quickly we will get back up on our feet."

Through at least March 31, he is ordering businesses that serve the public such as bars and nightclubs, gyms, bowling alleys and movie theaters to close. He said he could not legally order churches and other religious institutions to close, but he encouraged them to do so voluntarily.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom also called for all bars in the state to close. Newsom is also asking all Californians age 65 and older and those with chronic conditions to isolate themselves at home.

RELATED: Coronavirus: Governor Newsom calls for all California seniors to self-isolate, all bars to close

The White House on Monday urged all older Americans to stay home and everyone to avoid crowds and eating out at restaurants as part of sweeping guidelines meant to combat an expected surge of coronavirus cases.

President Donald Trump and the coronavirus task force released the guidelines as the U.S. government moved to try to blunt the impact of the virus, racing to bolster testing and aid even as financial markets fell and Americans scrambled to reorder their lives.

RELATED: Coronavirus in the US: Government tells older people to stay home, all ages to avoid crowds

Among the new recommendations: Over the next 15 days, Americans should not gather in groups of more than 10 people, schooling should be at home and discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided. If anyone in a household tests positive for the virus, everyone who lives there should stay home.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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