As the coronavirus pandemic intensifies, Americans are stockpiling everything from food to toilet paper in fear of potential forced quarantines that have been seen in other countries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising high-risk people to take action to protect themselves, including stockpiling supplies. High-risk populations include older adults as well as those who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.
What To Stock Up On
The CDC recommends that people in those high-risk categories stock up on extra prescription medications and over-the-counter medication to help manage symptoms, as well as basic medical supplies like tissues. In addition, you should have enough household items and groceries in preparation to be in quarantine for an extended period of time.
Of course, there’s a catch whenever stockpiling supplies is advised.
Consider Others Before Buying Too Much
Although some people are being advised to stockpile food and supplies, it’s important to remember that not everyone has the financial means necessary to do that. For those who live paycheck to paycheck, or rely on food banks for sustenance, the prospect of stockpiling isn’t feasible. Furthermore, stores that usually supply food banks with donations are increasingly unable to do so because their inventories are low due to customers buying more than usual.
“After chatting with the receiving manager at one of the stores, they were completely wiped out earlier in the week, which is why our donations are down,” Carmen Smith, associate director of White Center Food Bank in Seattle, told The Kitchn. That city has been hit harder by the new disease than any other in America so far.
Food banks are now asking people who have the means to consider donating. Smith told The Kitchn they especially need non-expired food donations, shelf-stable food items such as oil, coffee, rice, soy sauce, sugar, chicken stock, tomato paste, dates and pop-topped canned items like meat, soups, fruit and vegetables. They are also in need of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and disinfecting cleaning supplies. Cash donations are also much appreciated.
You can find a local food bank in your area here.
If you don’t belong to a high-risk demographic, the CDC is not recommending you stockpile supplies. Although you may be tempted to go out and buy as much toilet paper and hand sanitizer as you can fit in your home, it’s important to remember that this is not a rational response for most people and will leave others more vulnerable.
“In times of uncertainty, people enter a panic zone that makes them irrational and completely neurotic,” Dimitrios Tsivrikos, lecturer in consumer and business psychology at University College London, told CNBC. “In other disaster conditions like a flood, we can prepare because we know how many supplies we need, but we have a virus now we know nothing about.”
Instead of stocking up on unneeded supplies, experts recommend focusing on taking precautions to keep yourself healthy.
Timothy Brewer, an epidemiology professor at UCLA, suggests that people follow disease prevention guidelines, including thorough and consistent hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying home if you don’t feel well.
“The steps that you take to prepare for a pandemic are exactly the same regardless of the type of virus, whether it’s the flu or coronavirus,” Brewer told Vox.