As anxiety over COVID-19 spread, 22-year-old Adam Thomsen went on a “mission” from his mom to buy toilet paper.

Thomsen, who lives in Elkhorn, saw people scurrying to grab the remaining packages when he entered the Walmart Supercenter near 168th Street and West Maple Road on Friday afternoon. The store had about seven packages left, and he grabbed one.

He came out of the store shortly thereafter, with the toilet paper and a 12-pack of Coke in hand, describing a “crazy” scene.

“We have to come together and just help each other,” Thomsen said.

Gov. Pete Ricketts sought to reassure Nebraskans on Friday that the state’s food supply chain was secure, even as numerous stores were seeing some shelves emptied because of concerns over the novel coronavirus.

“We have a very secure supply chain,” Ricketts said, “and we are examining steps to ensure that products move quickly.”

Friday morning, the Walmart at 72nd and Hickory Streets was out of toilet paper. About a dozen cans of spray disinfectant were left, but no hand sanitizer. Aside from a few boxed rice meals, rice was absent from shelves. Stocks of canned goods were a little thin, but there was still plenty left.

Shelves in some freezers were nearly empty Friday at the Hy-Vee near 78th and Cass Streets. A sign advised that the store was limiting toilet paper purchases to one package per person until further notice.

The Walgreens on Saddle Creek Road was low on toilet paper but had plenty of chocolate. Early Friday morning, the Baker’s supermarket on Saddle Creek was out of toilet paper.

The governor acknowledged that some products are being purchased faster than they can be restocked. He also advised that people should have their prescription medications and two weeks of food and water on hand.

“Please be patient as our business owners work around the clock to keep operations moving,” Ricketts said.

Early Friday evening, the governor signed an official emergency declaration that waived hauling requirements for truckers delivering food and supplies to grocery stores.

Social media was abuzz late Thursday night with long grocery lines and full baskets. A stop at the Walgreens near 30th and Dodge Streets about 11 p.m. found the store bustling with customers. Several were buying toilet paper, and shelves were empty of sanitizing wipes and some other cleaning items.

Kathy Siefken, executive director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association, said Friday that grocery stores are open for business and there is no food shortage.

“Grocery stores receive multiple trucks every day to restock the food items that have been sold,” Siefken said. “Warehouses are full of food. There is a shortage of paper products and household chemicals, and the supply chain continues to work on these issues.”

World-Herald staff writer Erin Grace contributed to this report.

sazizah@owh.com, 402-444-1042

twitter.com/@mia_azizah11

Metro columnist

Columnist Erin Grace has covered a variety of beats since she started at The World-Herald in 1998 — from education to City Hall and from the city's western suburbs to its inner-city neighborhoods. Follow her on Twitter @ErinGraceOWH. Phone: 402-444-1136.

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