Let me answer that quickly. No.
People should be concerned about coronavirus and doing constructive things to prepare for a possible quarantine is good (see my blog about what to stock up on here).
There’s some overreaction and there’s definitely some irrational behavior.
Now, I do agree that some folks have gone a bit overboard. Viral videos of people rushing through Costco trying to snatch up 17 giant multipacks of toilet paper clearly show some panic is happening. I rolled my eyes yesterday at the grocery store as I watched a clearly stressed women loading a dozen packs of bottled water into her shopping cart. I wanted to tell her that coronavirus isn’t a hurricane and that public utilities will still work, but I decided it was best to walk away. I’m also annoyed with the emails I’m getting from online home decor, fashion, and shoe stores about coronavirus. Seems slightly out of their purview.
Note to online retail stores: We know you’re worried. Stop telling us. You’re just clogging up our inboxes.
So yes, there’s some overreaction and there’s definitely some irrational behavior going on out there. But social distancing, cancelling events, closing schools for a temporary amount of time, changing one’s personal habits—like not going to the movies or deciding to skip eating out—is NOT AN OVERREACTION!
That’s smart behavior that can and probably will minimize sickness, death, and economic damage in the long term.
As my colleague and friend Claudia Rosett advised me recently:
This is truly a time to hunker down at home.
So why not hunker down if you can?
Claudia also reminded me that this virus is at least 10 times more deadly than the flu. So when people say “it’s just the flu,” remember, it’s not just the flu. It’s worse. And while it chiefly targets the elderly and the immuno-compromised, younger people can also die if they get a bad case. And those younger people can infect those vulnerable populations.
That doesn’t mean panic or run out for those remaining rolls of toilet paper. It means be cautious and change your habits. Be less social. Stay away from crowds. Wash your hands A LOT! And support city officials when they suggest cancelling events and closing schools.
We’ll get through this with small changes. Don’t be ashamed to make them.