CAMDEN, NJ — Sitting at his register at Fayer’s Market, manager Jose Marmolejos told TAPinto Camden he can't help but feel a pang of guilt at customer’s rushing in seeking hand sanitizer. 

“They’re coming in constantly, you could sense the panic. I have a big bottle [of hand sanitizer] behind the register for myself but none on the sales floor,” Marmolejos said. “Honestly, I don’t know when we’ll get more.”

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) — now officially a pandemic — claimed its first life on Tuesday. 

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The first case in Camden County was announced this past Friday, with the patient reportedly recovering. 

Fayer’s Market, on Haddon Avenue, is one of many stores in the city that’s out of stock on hand sanitizer and disinfectants. Other items like toiletries and bottled water are also selling quickly. 

With the dramatic increase in demand, Marmolejos said he’s not surprised that price gouging is taking place.

“People take advantage. Everyone’s worried and stocking up,” he said. 

With Gov. Phil Murphy announcing an additional eight cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday — bringing the state total to 23 — the Camden County Division of Weights and Measures says inspectors will be keeping an eye out on store owners attempting to pilfer their customers. 

“Our residents rely on our inspectors for the peace of mind that when they pay for a gallon of gas, a pound of meat, or a yard of cloth, that they are getting what they paid for,” said Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services. “Fortunately, we have not identified any price gouging on these critical items during our first day of increased spot checks. We will continue to vigilantly seek out any establishment hoping to pray on desperate consumers in the days and weeks ahead.”

Rodriguez said the Department of Health and Human Services escalated the number of spot checks following the state’s emergency declaration. 

Unlike most, Ramon Placacia, owner of Martinez Grocery on 8th Street in Camden, said he still has supplies.

“Yes, including hand sanitizer,” he said. “I have extra supplies in the basement too. People are constantly in and out just for that. I hope the virus is dealt with correctly [as] people in the city are concerned.”

Placacia, who said he has not encountered inspectors thus far, “agrees with the measures being taken.”

Rodriguez said, “Though stock has been limited during many of our early checks, we will continue to ensure that Camden County residents are not being scammed or taken advantage of.”

County officials said as of now that the checks will occur daily and will continue until the state declaration has been lifted.

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