Across Portland, a Sense of Unease—and No Hand Sanitizer for 50 Miles

A Walgreens store clerk told WW that every location he's called in a 50-mile radius is also out of supplies.

The disinfectant aisle at Fred Meyers in Southwest Portland.

On the western outskirts of Portland, four miles from where the first Oregon coronavirus patient is hospitalized, the Walgreens is sold out of hand sanitizer.

That's a common refrain. A store clerk at that Northwest Cornell Road location told WW this afternoon that every other Walgreens he's called in a 50-mile radius is out of face masks and hand sanitizer, too.

A sign at the entrance of Walgreens on Northwest Cornell Rd.

The run on disinfectant falls in the wake of Gov. Kate Brown's announcement on Friday evening that a Washington County resident has a "presumed positive" case of coronavirus.

The person, an employee of Forest Hills Elementary School in Lake Oswego, had no known contact with anyone who recently traveled to affected countries, meaning they likely acquired the coronavirus via "community spread." On Saturday, Washington state health officials announced that a Kirkland man died from the virus—the first coronavirus death of an American.

Oregonians understandably have been on edge this weekend. The result: empty store shelves across the metro area.

In Lake Oswego, where the infected person worked and where one school is closed for deep cleaning until Wednesday, all seemed calm on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Residents milled about as usual in the public squares, and popular restuarant the Babica Hen Cafe was packed for brunch, with 40-minute wait times.

But a Rite Aid in Beaverton was out of masks, hand sanitizer, and isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol). Its paper towel and toilet paper aisles had also been nearly depleted.

Another Walgreens in Murray Scholls Town Center posted about its supply shortage on the front door.

Face Masks
We apologize for the inconvenience. Unfortunately our warehouse has run out of these products and we do not know when we will be receiving more."

Two customers approached the front doors and read the sign.

"At least they let you know before you go in," one person said to the other. They turned away and walked back toward the parking lot.

Murray Scholls Town Center Walgreens. (Tess Riski)

Justin Stout, a caregiver who works with adults with disabilities, was searching for cleaning supplies for his work.

He, too, was met with empty shelves at a Fred Meyer in Southwest Portland, where the soap, tissue, and disinfectant aisles were nearly empty.

"There's no Lysol spray. The only things left are the heavy cleaning stuff made for toilets or wood Pledge," Stout said. "There's not really much else left. I'm looking for disinfectant in general, and it looks like that is completely gone."

The paper towels aisle at a Fred Meyer in Tigard.

Kelly Laufer walked into the Walgreens on Northwest Cornell Road on a mission. It was her third attempt Sunday to find a bottle of hand sanitizer.

A white sign greeted her.

"Sorry! We are currently out of
-Surgical facemask
-Handsanitizer [sic]
-Isopropyl Alcohol
-Disinfectant Spray
We apologize for the inconvenience."

Dejected, Laufer turned around and headed to store number four of the day. She's flying to California next week and wants to be able to disinfect her hands while traveling.

"I just need to buy some kind of hand sanitizer," Laufer said.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.