Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Colorado and the nation and toilet paper and like products are flying off the shelves at local groceries as people rush to stock up on supplies.

There are no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Otero County as of Monday, Crowley / Otero Health Department Director Rick Ritter said at the Monday Board of County Commissioners meeting.

Nonetheless, locals flocked to Walmart and Safeway to apparently buy every last roll of toilet paper in stock.

An employee at Walmart told the newspaper that they receive product deliveries every day, but each day they are selling out faster than restockers in the store can keep up with.

Bulk paper towel and bottled water products are being rationed to two packs per customer / household at Walmart. Bathroom tissue at Safeway has been limited to one package per household.

Toilet paper and paper towels weren’t the only products disappearing from shelves on Monday. Canned food products at Walmart appeared to be in shortening supply and some body wash / soap / hygiene products were absent from their usual places on the shelves.

On Monday Ritter talked about recommendations released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and suggested that people adhere to them.

The recommendations advise that persons avoid large events and mass gatherings of people in order to limit exposure to and spread of the coronavirus that is surging across the world.

The CDC advised that event organizers in the United States cancel or postpone in-person events of 50 or more attendees. It also recommended that older adults and those who have chronic conditions consider postponing travel.

Ritter said he is not implementing mandatory social distancing orders at this time and that he is keeping a close eye for signs of local cases and what he called “community spread.”

Community spread means people who have not traveled and have no connections to travel are getting sick, indicating that the virus is proliferating locally.

Ritter has not seen evidence of community spread at this time, he said on Monday, and he urged the public to stay calm but to be prepared.

“We all need to meet in the middle and be balanced, and reasonable,” Ritter said.

On the question of potential school closures, Ritter said he would not hesitate to enforce them if he saw evidence that they were necessary.

“I have no reason at this point to use Colorado revised statutes to close schools,” said Ritter. “I wield that authority very carefully and based on science. I have no evidence of community transmission.”

Ritter is planning to meet with school district superintendents soon, he said.