“What are they doing with all that toilet paper?”

That’s a question many people ask each other as they watch some folks walk out of a Payson area store with toilet tissue stacked so high in their shopping cart that they can’t see over it.

“Now, I know how the world ends,” said an employee at a local grocery store having just watched customers gobble up toilet paper as fast as she could place it on the shelf.

It’s like a shark feeding frenzy.

Well, maybe not quite like that, but it can be bad out there.

It may not be quite as significant as the pandemic that sparked it, but panic buying is infecting many across the nation as the highly infectious coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, threatens to kill unimaginable numbers of people around the globe.

Store associates at Payson’s three largest grocery stores have quickly become veterans of this new process.

Toilet paper and paper towels are at the top of many people’s shopping lists. But timing is everything.

Trucks arrive loaded with supplies. Employees haul them out to stock the shelves and by the time they roll the carts back, the shelves are bare once again.

Maybe consumers are trying to make sure they’re covered in case they’re stuck in their home for weeks.

That’s a real possibility with this highly contagious virus that can be deadly to seniors and those with underlying health issues.

Everyone’s world has been turned upside down and some people are panicking, buying so much of certain items that many others find only empty shelves, which means they must return over and over again until they get lucky and find a package or two.

Toilet paper is at the top of the list of highly sought after items. You can find outrageous prices on the internet as people try to profit off of their big purchases. But most people aren’t selling it, just hoarding it.

It’s the same with hand sanitizer and paper towels aren’t far behind in a list of the hardest-to-get products.

One couple grabbed the final 10 containers of hand wipes remaining on the shelf and dumped them in their cart. They now have plenty. For everyone else: sorry, better luck next time.

Stores are posting signs telling customers there’s a limit to the number of certain items one can make in a single purchase. But not everybody is listening and some of them manage to leave with way more than they need.

“Do you think that’s a reasonable amount for you to buy?” an employee at a Payson grocery store asked two people with shopping carts overflowing with toilet paper and paper towels. “Yes, it’s for my house, my mom’s house and ...,” came the reply.

“Think about your community,” the employee said as he walked away shaking his head.

That didn’t change their minds.

Neither did the dirty looks they got from other customers.

Local businesses are trying to figure out how to navigate in this unique situation where people are being advised to limit their potential exposure by staying at home as much as possible and keep at least six feet between themselves and others in what’s called social distancing.

Shopping can qualify as one of the most dangerous activities you can do these days.

That’s why all three area grocery stores are trying to implement new policies from the number of certain products you can buy in a single transaction and cutting their hours to allow employees to fully stock the shelves.

On Wednesday, all Bashas’ stores in Arizona launched a new senior shopping hour to help senior citizens trying to figure out how to get food and other items they need and want with as little risk to their own safety as possible during this COVID-19 pandemic.

“To support the shopping needs of older adults during this critical time, starting this Wednesday, March 18, all Bashas’, Food City and AJ’s grocery stores in the state of Arizona will open from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. (6-7 for stores located on reservations) on Wednesdays for anyone age 65 and over,” Bashas’ said in a press release.

Shoppers will be required to show a valid I.D. at the door.

One caretaker will be allowed to help them shop, but will not be allowed to shop for themselves.

Bashas’ instituted new temporary limits on some items. All purchase limitations will remain in effect.

Customers may only purchase two of the following: bathroom tissue, paper towels, facial tissue, napkins, sanitizing wipes, hand soaps, cold and flu over-the-counter medications, isopropyl alcohol and hand sanitizers. Customers are limited to purchasing three bottled water multi-packs.

Additional limitations include: two gallons of milk per transaction, two cartons of eggs (any size), two packages of ground beef and two packages of chicken.

Bashas’ in Payson instituted new store hours that started on March 15. The store is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Walmart, normally open 24 hours a day, has changed its hours of operation to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Safeway also cut its hours to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., four fewer hours than before.

Theater closes

Sawmill Theatres general manager Craig Triphahn announced on Monday that the theaters would close until further notice beginning Tuesday, March 17.

This decision was made in compliance with Monday’s government recommendations to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people as the nation seeks to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Hopefully, we will reopen at the end of the month,” Triphahn said in an email sent Monday afternoon.

Triphahn was hoping to remain open amid the pandemic as recently as Sunday, but things have escalated quickly in recent days. Studios halted production and began to push new releases back. Theaters across the country, including Sawmill, announced they’d limit ticket sales to allow customers greater social distancing opportunities. Sawmill started limiting ticket sales to 50% of theater capacity on Sunday. They also announced new enhanced cleaning measures over the weekend.

However, Triphahn wound up having to make the tough announcement and the screens went dark following Monday’s screenings.

Back to Basics offers free delivery

The family owned organic grocery store Back to Basics, located at 908 N. Beeline Highway, is offering free delivery for those trying to isolate themselves during the outbreak. They haven’t changed their hours.

“We plan to be in business as long as the authorities allow us to,” said employee Andrea Murphy. “But we’re also taking into consideration the ability of our distributors to provide us adequate stock. We have had an enormous influx of customers buying immune supplements and other supplies. Due to demand, we are currently out of stock of some items and are hoping to receive more stock soon. But we also want to let our customers know that many manufacturers are out of stock on popular items, so please be patient. We are trying very hard to keep up and to stay safe and healthy during this difficult time.”

Safety is a priority for Back to Basics.

“We will continue to clean and sanitize,” said owner Christina Furlong. “Our employees’ and the community’s health is important to us.”

Call Back to Basics at 928-484-8935. They’re open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; and from noon to 5 p.m. the first Sunday of the month.

Macky’s Grill still offers dining

Restaurants in some states are no longer allowed to offer dine-in service, just drive-thru, delivery and pickup service. But that’s the not case here and Macky’s Grill continues to offer Rim Country residents a tasty option.

General manager Kristy Ulmer said business has dropped over the past couple of weeks.

“We’re probably down close to 25% since March 7 and more like 45% over the past week,” she said.

That cuts into the hours servers work and the money they bring home.

“When I’m only doing half the business I’m only going to need half the staff,” Ulmer said. “So I’ve had to cut everybody’s hours. I’ll never let someone go. We’ll all suffer together. And I won’t close unless I’m mandated to. I think Payson needs to stick together as a community as we always have and shop local.”

Shear Oasis Salon taking precautions

Like most businesses, Shear Oasis Salon is taking extra precautions.

“Our stylists and technicians all work different days so there are never more than two to five people at any given time,” they posted on their Facebook page. “We are extra safe and being diligent with our disinfecting and sanitization for our clients and staff’s well being.”

Shear Oasis, located at 806 N. Beeline Highway, is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Starbucks cuts out inside consumption

The stand alone Starbucks store in the Bashas’ Shopping Center remains open for business but customers are temporarily no longer allowed to sit and consume their beverages inside. They may come in to order and leave or use the drive-thru.

Culver’s

Culver’s Payson owner Steve Chlupsa announced on Wednesday that the restaurant is temporarily closing its dining room and will only be serving guests in the drive-thru in an effort to limit person-to-person contact beginning Thursday, March 19.

Customers may also call to place an order and pick it up.

“Our top priority remains ensuring the health, safety and overall well-being of our guests, team members and communities,” Culver’s said in a press release.

“While we love nothing more than serving you delicious food, we take the guidance of the CDC, state and local governments very seriously and want to do our part in limiting the spread of the virus.”

Chlupsa is hoping this temporary move ends soon.

“It’s definitely going to be tough,” Chlupsa said. “We’re trying to keep as many employees as we can, but with the dining room closed it’ll depend on how long this goes on. This is supposed to be a couple of weeks long, so by keeping everybody partially employed we can bring them back.”

To place an order over the phone and pick it up, call 928-363-4433. Chlupsa said it takes between five to seven minutes to get orders ready. When you arrive at the restaurant, park by the front door and call them to let them know you’ve arrived and an employee will bring your food when you pay them.

Chlupsa said those who order by phone should not use the drive-thru.

The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., but Chlupsa said that they will likely shorten those hours at some point. “We’ll wait and see,” he said.

Mazatzal Casino and Tribal Enterprises

On Wednesday, the Tribal Council approved an emergency declaration.

With the signing of the resolution, all tribal enterprises are closed for a minimum of two weeks beginning at 5 p.m. March 19.

This includes the gym, tribal headquarters, hotel and casino and TGO.

All Tonto Apache Tribal government and enterprise team members will be on paid leave and will continue to receive benefits.

The Tribal Market may remain open as a drive-thru only with gas available for purchase by credit card only.

Payson Roundup

The front office of the Payson Roundup newspaper will be closed to the public for a minimum of two weeks.

The staff will continue to work to provide Rim Country residents the latest updates on the coronavirus and local news.

For advertising, editorial and circulation, call 928-474-5251.

Visit our website, payson.com, for COVID-19 updates.

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