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New restrictions cause early-pandemic scenes in Washington grocery stores

As Gov. Inslee announced capacity caps at retailers to curb the spread of coronavirus, grocery stores saw empty shelves as people flocked to get supplies.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — In the aftermath of Gov. Jay Inslee's announcement on new coronavirus restrictions, grocery stores started getting busy. 

Inslee's plan calls for 25% capacity at in-person retailers, including grocery stores, just as we enter one of the busiest times of the year for shopping.

The toilet paper section was decimated at several Washington grocery stores, and many grocery chains put a limit on several key items. 

“We've got plenty of food in the supply chain but we need people to buy what they need right now,” QFC representative Tiffany Sanders explained.

There were reports of long lines at checkout and lines just to get into stores at several Costco warehouses around western Washington. 

“I really hope we don't have hoarding going on in our stores. That's really not necessary and most unhelpful,” Inslee said at a news conference on Sunday.

RELATED: New social restrictions go into effect on Monday as Washington tries to curb COVID-19

Grocery stores already face reduced capacity, and the governor's new restrictions bring it to just 25%, a number that will vary store to store depending on size.  

“We are asking that people only send one member of their household as they try to do their shopping,” Sanders explained.

The restrictions mean some shoppers got their Thanksgiving dinner supplies early.  

“Normally they would have waited until a few days before Thanksgiving. I think a lot of people are trying to get it done now and make sure they have everything they need,” Sanders said.

Stores suggest people shop in the morning hours and stock-up early. 

The changes go into effect Monday at midnight.