Pandemics, hoarding, and the human psyche

Having a level mindset in times of angst is always a good skill to have.  Fortunately in the last century, there have only been a handful of events that have stressed the world’s economy to cause widespread concern.  9/11 is one of those more recent events that come to mind.  Other major natural disaster events like the Haitian earthquake and the tsunami in Japan that resulted in a nuclear power plant meltdown both resulted in significant angst among the region affected.  Those who were not directly impacted (myself included) simply donated to a relief organization or did nothing at all.  Did those events affect the world’s economy? Yes, but not necessarily to the extent that huge numbers of people end up losing their jobs or livelihood.
Fast forward to the year 2020.  The world is talking about COVID-19, a real modern day pandemic.  Perhaps this virus will go down in history as the most widely known and literally widespread infectious disease in the last century.  I’ve medical colleagues who had no clue what MERS did back in 2012, but the severity of COVID-19 has at least made them acknowledge that there is a problem.

People, by nature, don’t like missing out on the action.  It doesn’t matter whether the action is free.  If the local ice creamery is giving out free ice cream, you’d bet that there will be a line.  It doesn’t matter if the wait is an hour in the blistering sun—there will be people (myself included) who would consider lining up for it.  Likewise, we’ve all lined up waiting for restaurants too. It doesn’t have to be the newest steakhouse on the block or the newest sushi bar in town either—even fast food chains can have long lines.  Sometimes the allure of long lines actually conveys to customers that the food is worth waiting for.  You be the judge of how long one should wait in line for a good hamburger.

Take a little betadine along with your morning coffee!

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020
There’s no missing out on COVID-19.  It’s widespread, high contagious, and without direct treatment.  Governments have been rolling out mass testing with various degrees of success.  More importantly, the consensus is to avoid social contact.  This does not decrease the total number of people that will ultimately be infected, but spread out the number of infected individuals over a longer span of time.  By reducing the rate of transmission we can hopefully reduce the burden on the healthcare infrastructure, and hopefully decrease the mortality of disease.

Social distancing implies that we should avoid social gatherings and minimize time out in public spaces. This includes restaurants and even grocery stores.  

How many weeks of toilet paper should one stock up on to weather the novel coronavirus? It’s interesting how panic buying comes into the equation when there is even a hint of scarcity.  Milk, eggs, bread…many of these staple items are now consistently in short supply as of March 2020.  As certain restrictions, social distancing mandates, and quarantines occur, how much people decide to hoard will be fascinating to observe.

What goes on in the human mind

Much research has been conducted on human behavior.  Instinctively we are programmed to survive, even if it means being selfish.  We are definitely seeing instances of selfishness in human behavior during a stressful time in our lives.  We are also seeing acts of selflessness in the world too, with healthcare workers putting their own lives at risk to care for others, and many corporate entities contributing significant resources to supplies and manpower to fight the disease.
It will be interesting to see how the economy and society will play out over the next few months.

Stay safe and wash your hands everyone!

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