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Coronavirus fears spark panic-buying across U.S.

(Source: WVLT)
(Source: WVLT)(WVLT)
Published: Mar. 14, 2020 at 2:41 PM EDT
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As the coronavirus continues to spread and schools and sporting events are shut down, many people have started stocking up on essentials.

Masks were the first to go. Then, hand sanitizers. Now many people are "panic-buying" items like toilet paper.

Retailers across the U.S. have started limiting the number of cleaning supplies and toilet paper a customer can purchase.

Psychologists have said there are many things that have led to mass amounts of people to start panic-buying.

Reason #1:

Several countries have imposed mass quarantines. According to Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist, people are left to the probability that what has happened in other parts of the world will happen in their area. Many people are stocking up on essentials in case the U.S. undergoes a mass quarantine as well.

Reason #2:

Photos of empty shelves and shopping carts piled high with supplies have gone viral on social media. Clinical Psychologist Steven Taylor said panic-buying leads to panic buying. As others see the images of people with carts full of supplies they assume there is a reason to panic and buy up supplies too.

Reason #3:

Frank Farley, a professor at Temple University, said with the CDC advising many groups of people to stay home and avoid contact with other people or crowds, it's natural to want to overprepare.

"[The novel coronavirus] is engendering a sort of survivalist psychology, where we must live as much as possible at home and thus must 'stock up' on essentials, and that certainly includes toilet paper," he told CNN. "After all, if we run out of [toilet paper], what do we replace it with?"

Reason #4:

Taylor said many people are panic-buying out of fear. By overstocking on supplies people get a sense of control over what may seem like a helpless situation, according to Taylor.

"It's all due to this wave of anticipatory anxiety," Taylor said. "People become anxious ahead of the actual infection. They haven't thought about the bigger picture, like what are the consequences of stockpiling toilet paper."

Taylor said over-buying out of fear, however, does not aid healthcare workers, sick people or even regular folks who might also run out.

As of March 14 there have been nearly 150,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. While there have been more than 5,500 confirmed deaths, over 72,000 people have recovered from coronavirus.

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