Americans Find Empty Shelves At Grocery Stores Across The Country Amid Omicron Surge

Chris Menahan
Jan. 13, 2022

I wrote an article on Dec 31 urging readers to "Stock up NOW" ahead of a potential Omicron-induced surge in panic buying and workers calling in sick.

I took my own advice and stocked up the same day and found the shelves at my local grocery store well stocked.

A week later, the same grocery store was cleaned out of most fresh produce and nearly all of their fresh chicken.

It has been two weeks now and empty shelves have become a major issue throughout the country.


[Stop watching at the one minute mark if you don't want to waste your time.]

Omicron has been spreading like crazy and from what I've heard, many people are also taking advantage of the situation and calling in sick.

"More than 5 million Americans, or 2% of the workforce, 'could now be isolating,' Capital Economics economist Andrew Hunter estimated," Axios reported Monday.

In the Inside Edition report above, John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner and CEO of the Gristedes Supermarket chain, pretty hilariously advises everyone to respond to the shortages by stocking their freezer and fridge and buying everything they can now.

The top comment on YouTube is a user whining about it:

It's good advice.

11Alive is reporting stores may not be fully stocked again for six months to a year.


From 11Alive, "Supply chain economists: Supermarket shelves to be full again by end of 2022":
"We just need to get the supply chain fully-employed, and everybody back to work" said Doug Baker, Vice President of Industry Relations at FMI, The Food Industry Association.

Baker said the COVID-19 omicron variant is decimating the work force at every stage of the supply chain--workers throughout the system calling in sick--which slows down different parts of the supply chain at different times, causing a ripple effect all the way to the end of the chain, at the supermarket shelves.

The pandemic surge, he said, is creating shortages of ingredients to make the foods, and reducing staff to operate the food processing plants, and interrupting the businesses that make the packaging for the foods, and reducing the numbers of interstate and local truck drivers to deliver the foods to the retailers, and stretching thin the numbers of people needed to unload the trucks and stock the shelves.

And as wholesale prices go up, supermarket managers can't always afford to buy as much inventory as they did when they were able to fill all their shelves.

"It's not broken. The food is in the supply chain," Baker said. "Unfortunately, because we're not fully employed because we're dealing with this virus, it gets stuck, it gets stuck along the supply chain, and it's taking longer. You know, something that might have been two to four weeks to get is now eight to twelve weeks to get."

Supply chain economists expect that as soon as the omicron variant peaks, the supply chain will begin to recover--just as it was starting to do after the delta variant peaked last year.

"It's going to take a while for the supply chains to recalibrate and re-fill all the way to the store," Baker said. "We're probably not going to see any significant relief until the back half of 2022."
Wastewater samples from Boston suggest Omicron has already peaked on the East Coast, so perhaps we'll see some relief sooner rather than later.

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