America’s Coping Mechanism Against the Coronavirus Pandemic: Shopping

It’s official: the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus (covid-19) a deadly global pandemic as of March 12th. The United States has been hit with new cases every day regarding the infected, which range from the elderly, TSA officers, politicians, individuals with respiratory problems, and even a well-loved actor, Tom Hanks. Does this virus know no bounds?! The outbreak seemed distant and surreal when the United States had not experienced cases of infection. But now that it’s here and finally, President Trump has stopped minimizing the gravity of this virus, it’s time to prepare. How, you ask? The American public responded to the crisis in the best way we knew how: shopping. 

Masks and hand sanitizer were the first to fly off the shelves when the shopping craze began. The demand for medical face masks was so strong that sales surged 319% within a four-week timespan that ended on February 22. Healthcare providers literally could not get a hold of face masks because people were purchasing such a ridiculous amount of them. It got so bad that the Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams had to plead the public to stop! Ironically, the Surgeon General even revealed that these masks are not effective in the prevention of the virus. 

As for the hand sanitizer frenzy, the CDC actually recommends soap and water over sanitizer or one that holds 60% alcohol.

a woman stands in front of the health juice/kombucha shelves at a grocery store

Now, in the face of this worsening crisis, the public has moved on to stocking up on a modern necessity- toilet paper. How would toilet paper be useful in combating the virus exactly? That’s a question I ask myself as well. My theory is that people think that with increasing practice of social distancing across the world, we too will face a similar fate of the people in Wuhan, where the public are experiencing a lockdown and imprisoned in their homes until the virus is contained. In that sense, it makes sense if people want to prepare for this situation by stocking up necessities in a similar fashion to Doomsdayers. According to Frank Farley, former president of the American Psychological Association, in a CNN report, my theory is not far off as he states that the virus has put us in a “sort of survivalist psychology”, which includes staying at home and stocking up on essentials. The widespread panic propelled by this virus has the public scared and driven to shop for items they perceive to be essentials as they expect to enter a hibernation-like phase that will leave those who don’t stock up without.

But Elizabeth Schneider, says “don’t panic” as a US coronavirus survivor. Her recovery is not a miracle because according to the CDC, the virus is generally deadlier for older individuals and those with chronic medical conditions. However, prevention is key and still possible if we were all to practice social distancing and washing of our hands as much as possible. These methods may not eliminate the virus, but it will decrease chances for exposure and lower chances of transmission. Try to limit your shopping in-store, wash your hands, and stay safe!

container next to flowers