Grocery Store Prices Rising Amid Shortages as Some States Start to Re-open
Have you noticed how much items have gone down recently? Especially for things such as clothing and gasoline. Plus used cars, airline fares and hotel stays.
Consumer items fell nearly a full percent during April. It's the biggest drop since the 2008 Great Recession.
But there is one very notable exception to this lowering. I'm guessing you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Food. Rates at grocery stores skyrocketed by 2.6 percent last month. It was the largest jump in 46 years. That's according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Food Demand Up, Supply Down
Food is one of the few commodities that has seen increases since COVID-19 took hold in America. So, we aren't worried about inflation yet.
But just about everyone is concerned with food rising. Ground beef is up 4.8 percent. Pasta and rice are up 2.5 percent. Eggs are up 16.1 percent.
Instant coffee is up 2.5 percent. Apples are up 4.9 percent. Oranges are up 5.6 percent. Comfort foods like cookies and doughnuts are up by about 5 percent each.
The pandemic has not only stricken some 1.3 million Americans. And killed more than 82,000 of us.
It has also wreaked havoc with the U.S. economy. Restaurants have been hit particularly hard. That has affected food producers, who have raised prices.
Meat Prices Increasing
It's not that we're eating more during this pandemic. Well, some of us probably are. The problem is, we're spending more at grocery stores and less at restaurants than before. And that demand for grocery store items drives numbers up.
Normally, eating at home more often would be good for a budget. But with grocery store expenses rising significantly, we're feeling the crunch.
We can expect food numbers to remain high. Especially for items such as meat. That's because meat processing plants are experiencing high infection rates.
And that's causing a slowdown in the food supply chain. And even when we do start to see more meat in stores, these numbers could continue to climb.
Rationing Becoming Common
For now though, meat shortages are being seen in many stores. Some stores are monitoring the number of meat items you can get.
As meat plants continue to be shuttered, demand will grow and supply will shrink. And rates will go up. Pork was 3 percent higher in April, with chicken rising 5.8 percent. Fresh fish went up by 4.2 percent and hot dogs 5.7.
The shortages are generally restricted to fresh meat. There are hundreds of millions of pounds of frozen meat in storage.
That's why most fast food chains are not experiencing shortages. But those that only serve fresh meat, such as Wendy's, are. Last week, Wendy's stopped making hamburgers in several states. Including Kentucky, California and South Carolina.
110,000 Americans Gone by June 6?
Earlier I mentioned some sobering statistics about confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S.
Everyone is looking for light at the end of the tunnel. But almost nobody is seeing it. Projections are all over the place regarding how bad it will get.
Nicholas Reich is a biostatistician at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He has done work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reich merged a variety of models into one.
His projection isn't pretty. It has the U.S. death toll reaching 110,000 by June 6. The logic behind pessimistic models is that infections will increase as the country opens up.
Different Strokes for Different States
A number of states are already lifting some restrictions. Because their confirmed cases are leveling off or decreasing.
Others are extending stay-at-home orders. Due to rising numbers of cases and deaths.
Some states are only encouraging people to stay home, rather than demanding it. And restricting non-work gatherings to 10 people.
Other states are much more forceful about their restrictions. They're allowing places like gyms and restaurants to reopen. But with restricted capacity.
Openings Include Restrictions
Here are some examples. As of May 8, Arizona is allowing retail stores to conduct in-person shopping again. But with strict physical distancing.
California's stay-at-home mandate has no set end date. But people can go to Los Angeles County beaches for swimming and surfing.
In Florida, the Keys will not reopen to visitors until June at the earliest. Restaurants in most Florida counties can reopen with outdoor seating. And 25 percent capacity.
Idaho's mandate to self-isolate expired May 1. Illinois is slowly opening state parks, golf courses and retail stories. With strict social measures.
New Hampshire is now allowing elective surgeries. If they are time sensitive. Some states have not yet issued a stay-at-home mandate. Such as South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
Hospitals Preparing for Surge
There are concerns with reopening the country too soon and too quickly. Including the potential for hospitals to be overrun with patients.
Since restrictions began, healthcare facilities have been trying to pile up on equipment they'll need to handle another surge.
Such as facemasks, gloves and other personal protective equipment. Plus ventilators and hospital beds.
How bad the surge might be and whether healthcare facilities will be fully prepared remain to be seen.
Many of us are wondering when things will get back to normal. Some are convinced the new normal will look much different than the old one.
In the meantime, please take care of yourselves, your loved ones and your neighbors.