But by the time she’d arrived, all of those items were gone. It had been over a week since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had urged Americans like her — older, with chronic health conditions — to “stock up” and stay home because of the deepening coronavirus crisis, which was upending every aspect of daily life and shutting down entire cities. The president even went on TV to urge people to avoid gatherings of more than 10.But like millions of Americans on fixed incomes, who rely on social security, disability checks or food stamps to buy necessities each month, Brown doesn’t have much of a choice. It is nearly impossible, she says, to stock up on food, medication or other necessities beyond what she would normally buy.“Of course I would’ve liked to buy groceries sooner,” said Brown, 69, a retired courtroom clerk in Burlington, N.C. “But I’m only getting checks once a month. Once that’s gone, I’m broke until the next one comes.”Across the country, already-struggling Americans are being urged to buy more at one time and embrace social distancing to help slow the outbreak’s spread. At the same time, supermarkets are getting picked over, as panic-stricken


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