Panic Buying & Covid-19

Covid-19 has shown us just how vulnerable we are to fear-leading to panic buying. Grocery and bulk item store’s checkout lines 10 to 12 deep, empty store shelves, some shoppers wearing masks and latex gloves. Shopping carts full of bottled water, cases of toilet paper with only a few food items. Panic-buying.

What is really going on here? Why are people acting like its doomsday and suddenly it’s every man for himself? The number of people who have died from Covid-19 is minuscule compared to the number of deaths from previous forms of the flu. And Covid-19 is a form of flu. While seasonal flu is caused by a different virus than Covid-19, they are both viral and both infectious respiratory infections.

Covid-19 is what’s know as a corona virus. Corona viruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold.

If you are interested in the numbers surrounding Covid-19, the website Covidtracker is a good source. The numbers indicate that the US is handling things better than most every other country. The numbers prove there is no reason for panic-buying. Compare the numbers against the population of approximately 330 million people in the US, and you should see what I’m referring to.

The numbers of confirmed cases will increase, not because this is an end-of-the-world pandemic, but because testing has now become wide-spread. The more you test, the more you find. We didn’t know Covid-19 existed until reports of a new Corona virus (named Covid-19) began coming out of China in December with the first death from the virus, reported on January 11th of this year.

I’m not down-playing the seriousness of Covid-19, what I am suggesting that we separate fact from supposition and remain clear headed in our thinking. We are beginning to see the fog of fear dissipate and are begining to see the real needs and are addressing those needs.

So what happened, and who are the major players in this panic over Covid-19.

First and foremost, The Media.

The media got a hold of the Covid-19 story, and fanned the flames of fear non-stop. In their quest for ratings, they got what they wanted; people glued to their TVs, their computers, their cell phones so they could relay just how bad things are, just how bad they will get, who’s to blame, what the government’s not doing, and they are your only source of truth.

It’s time for people to understand the major media, for the most part, does not report reality, they create their own version of reality, and people have been sucked into it.

Is the media to blame for fear-mongering and panic-buying? Absolutely!

Of late, local media outlets have been doing what the major markets have failed to do, promote calm. They are trying to put the ‘genie back in the bottle’ as it were. But alas it’s too late. The damage is done.

The economic damage done by Covid-19 is, and will be far greater than the damage caused by the virus itself. Secular employment has been wrecked. Travel and entertainment sectors were hit first. But because our economy is so inter-dependent, it didn’t take long for it to affect everyone.

Local and national government officials have shut down the schools, placing undo burdens on parents who are forced to pay for childcare or take off work losing that much more income. In their rush to ‘protect the public,’ they forgot many children rely on public school breakfast and lunches, forcing them to modify their policy.

‘We’re closing the schools, but bring your kids to school to eat breakfast and lunch.’ Kind of self-defeating isn’t it?

They’ve halted most civic functions. College campuses have canceled and or postponed class and athletic events, even graduation ceremonies, creating more economic damage. And the bandwagon keeps running, with some states forcing local restaurants and bars to close doing further economic damage. All in the name of protecting the public.

I’m not being critical of their actions as much as I am illustrating local government officials were not equipped to handle the hysteria created by the media and the panic of the general public. I’m not talking about something you purchase to fix this, I’m talking about the training required to handle public panic.

At the national level, Congress has responded the only way they seem capable of; throwing money at it.

Cu-dos to the Trump administration for the way they are planning to supply economic aid. We must be careful not to give away money because people are panicking and thinking, “it’s not my fault I can’t go to work so the government should pay for it.

The final guilty party responsible for creating this madness. It comes down to you.

While all of these factors have contributed to panic-buying, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. It doesn’t explain why the first thing people are panic-buying is toilet paper and bottled water. It doesn’t make any sense. So what is the reason?

People have lost their ability to rationalize. To make sound decisions. They have lost the ability to act and make decisions based on facts. They have become so addicted to others telling them what to do and think, they can no longer do it for themselves. As a result they respond in fear.

It’s monkey-see-monkey-do. People hear there’s a shortage of toilet paper so they think “I better go get some more so I don’t run out,” even though they have plenty all ready. Same thing at the store, they see a few people with a case of toilet paper in their shopping carts, and think “I better get some more, before they run out.” Monkey-see-monkey-do.

I know we’ve all become accustomed to the convenience of toilet paper, but how much toilet paper do you think you need? I’m not an expert on toilet paper consumption, but lets do a little math; say a roll of toilet paper lasts 1 person about 1 week. Being extremely liberal, say 1-1/2 rolls per week per person.

If you have 4 people in your household:

4 X 1.5 = 6 rolls per week

Now if you had to shelter-in-home for 2 weeks:

6 X 2 = 12

So a family of 4 would need 12 rolls for 2 weeks. A single person would need 3. Yet people are panic-buying far more than that. It’s not rational thinking. Many of the shoppers I saw, got toilet paper first, bottled water 2nd, then food.

While writing this, I see there is a website article with instructions on how calculate how much toilet paper you need. Do we really need a website to tell us that?

Choosing toilet paper over food, and the food types people are panic-buying indicate they have no idea how to stock for any real emergency.

Let’s do a rational exercise for bottled water by asking a question; and it’s not mathematical, just yes or no. Do you think Covid-19 is going to cause municipalities to turn the water off?

Then why buy 6 cases of bottled water?

The every-man-for-himself, panic-buying mentality means there are those who will have to do without because many others have overbought.

What has led to the absence of logic? People have become so reliant on instructions they get from others via the internet, more specifically the internet on smart phones, it has made them mentally lazy. No need to decide, just follow, like sheep.

You’ve heard the sarcastic saying “if it’s on the internet it must be true,” sadly, people actually believe it. They will say they don’t, but their actions betray them. Lazy in logic leads to lazy in learning. Why learn it, when you can pull out your smart phone and Google it. You don’t need to bother learning anything, if you need to know how to do something, look it up. With thousands of videos, stories, and websites at your disposal why learn how to do anything? And that is exactly what has happened here, and panic- buying is the proof.

The sad thing is the internet is a wonderful tool. It has put information resources at our disposal that previous generations could only dream of. It is making continuation of education simple. Can’t go to school, fine, let’s do it online. There are many free sources of education online. You can self-educate and improve your life, but too many are more interested in what some Reality TV celebrity is doing than they are in improving their own life.

People are so easily swayed by the media, they accept what they’ve heard as fact without bothering to do their own research. They foolishly rely on anyone popular, or any website that claims to be fact-checkers.

Have you ever had a debate with someone and almost every answer they use as a defense for their position is a URL? It quickly reveals they believe in nothing, other than what is socially acceptable at the time. Once the URL defense fails you are condemned as being a bigot, a fascist, or a racist.

I ran across and interesting article a few days ago, which is a good comparison of Covid-19 vs. other pandemics. Very useful information.

Remember the Swine Flu? The pandemic of 2009 where there were 155,318 confirmed cases, 27,632 hospitalized, and 34,33 deaths. CDC even estimated some 59 million Americans contracted it over it’s life cycle.

I don’t recall this scale of panic-buying then. In fact, I don’t remember any panic-buying. I don’t remember flights being canceled or business functions being called off, or restaurants and bars being forced to close. Has fear and ignorance grown that much since 2009? Apparently so.

Before you say Covid-19 is worse than the Swine-Flu was, lets wait until this is over, then decide. We may even discover Covid-19 has been around a while, even here in the US, only time will tell. We may even find there were many who contracted the virus and recovered without realizing it.

Swine-flu was publicized as just the ‘flu’, today it’s a ‘virus.’ Virus sounds so much more deadly than the flu. Add pandemic to the conversation and fear runs a muck through the herd. Panic-buying ensues.

We are devolving into a society that cannot think for ourselves, we are swayed by everything we see and hear, and we are seeing the proof of that playing out. It has been said in jest ‘smart phones make us dumb,’ maybe its true.

Mankind’s best weapon against threats of any kind is the brain, start using it. Encourage others to do the same. Help those in need, not those in greed. Use proper precaution, of course, but we must not wall ourselves up and fail to help those who cannot help themselves.

If you start or join a Facebook page about Covid-19, do something useful and be willing to help others. Don’t use it as a platform to complain about what others are doing while you hide at home. We must not let fear destroy our humanity.

It has been said “those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” Let’s use the Covid-19 experience as a lesson and learn from it. Don’t take anything from the media at face-value. Do your own research. Get the facts, then make an informed decision. Don’t use this experience as an opportunity to play the blame-game, focus on what you can do better. Put an end to needless panic.