Forget Stockpiling Toilet Paper, Here's What Health Officials Really Want You to Do

People around the world are scrambling to stock up on household goods, food and medication as the new coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to grow. Unfortunately, the stockpiling is quickly moving from common sense preparedness to outright panicked hoarding.

“Panic buying is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Karan Girotra, professor of operations at Cornell University, told USA Today. “If everyone thinks things are going to run out, they go and buy out things and they do run out.”

Health officials agree that people at risk for getting COVID-19 should stock up on some things in case of quarantine. However, the public is being warned against buying up protective gear that are sorely needed by medical professionals and people who work with frequent interactions with the public. People who are sick should also be wearing facemasks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Who Should Be Stocking Up?

The CDC is recommending that people over the age of 60 and anyone with chronic medical conditions plan to stay home for a long time. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, told reporters that people in those groups essentially have “no immunity against this virus.”

Messonnier said that 15 to 20 percent of the people exposed to this coronavirus will get severely sick, CNBC reported. She noted that individuals with diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and other serious conditions are more likely to develop “serious outcomes, including death.”

“This seems to be a disease that affects adults and most seriously older adults,” she said. “Starting at age 60, there is an increasing risk of disease and the risk increases with age.”

The CDC recommends that individuals who are 60 and over and those with underlying conditions stock up on medications, household items and groceries. Those people should also avoid taking cruises and avoid non-essential travel. Individuals who are higher risk should avoid crowds, coming in close contact with people who are sick or touching “high-touch” surfaces in public spaces.

What You Should Be Stocking Up On?

Experts say people should not be hoarding basic necessities, such as toiletries, beyond having a 14-day emergency supply of food and necessities, according to USA Today. The American Red Cross has put together a guide on what people should prepare to have on hand.

The organization recommends having a supply of food staples and household goods, including laundry detergent and hygienic products, for a two week period. While hand sanitizer is key to have, it is equally, if not more important, to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 to 25 seconds.

Per Hong, a senior partner in the strategic operations practice at Kearney, a global management consultancy, told USA Today that people shouldn’t fear a shortage of toilet paper in the country.

“Those supplies will be fully restocked and my ability to go to the store to get those supplies isn’t going to go away anytime soon,” Hong said.

People should also have at least a 30-day supply of prescription medications and other health supplies. As for food, there should be a focus on dry and canned good items, like rice, pasta, oats and beans.

What people should not be stocking up on? Fear.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.