America is in the grips of a coronavirus-fueled crisis and while residents should be taking reasonable precautions, reaction by many people to this situation is extreme, panicked and possibly just as dangerous as the disease itself.

To be clear, coronavirus and the disease it causes (COVID-19) is a real problem. It is highly infectious, new to humans and potentially deadly. How infectious and deadly is still a matter of debate. It’s certainly worse than the regular flu but probably not as bad as the Spanish flu. Regardless, it has the capacity to overwhelm health care services if left unchecked so authorities are taking steps to slow its spread.

The public has been asked to limit travel, avoid large gatherings and maintain good hygiene practices but somehow some people have translated these entirely reasonable instructions into a reason to become racist doomsday preppers.

People are justifiably scared and confused but that doesn’t mean we should accept some of the monumentally bad behavior that’s emerged in the past week.

Hoarding is truly idiotic. We can’t overstate the massive stupidity on display in grocery stores across the country. Certainly, a temporary run on hand sanitizer and related products is to be expected but to buy out toilet paper, condoms, batteries or quite frankly any other item is just detestable behavior.

It’s not just that buying out items you don’t actually need is massively selfish, the act of hoarding actually increases community unrest because unfortunately, panic begets panic.

You can watch people devolve into two-legged locusts when they enter the store and don’t immediately see it full to the seams with 20 kinds of English muffin and 10 different potato options.

There’s no food shortage expected in the coming weeks but we can expect fewer people to eat in restaurants. As we reported in today’s paper, that could be a burden on many of the local eateries that are vital to our local community. Instead of hoarding supplies, we should use this opportunity to get take-out, and take-out specifically from our local businesses. If you really have to have delivery, order directly from the restaurants and try to find those businesses with their own delivery services. The very popular delivery services can take as much as 30% from the business owner, so you do a lot more good by placing an order and picking it up yourself.

Even more repulsive has been the racism accompanying the crisis. There’s never an excuse for bigotry but that doesn’t stop people from engaging in this kind of behavior. It’s always our responsibility to push back when this raises its ugly head.

Following shortly behind the first two instances is a third scorn-worthy group: naked opportunists. This goes beyond the simple money-grubbing scammers. Price gouging accompanies almost all disasters and this is no different. Charging $20 for a can of Lysol is literally criminal and those individuals should be publicly shamed for this kind of scam. Just as problematic are those seeking to exploit the situation for political gain and we should all be skeptical of those trying to take advantage of the crisis.

There are obvious steps we should all take. Handwashing, avoiding handshakes, sneezing into your elbow and other basic sanitary measures are just common sense. Keeping out of the crowd is a good idea right now both physically and digitally. There’s no reason to attend a conference and social media is far more likely to cause confusion and fear.

This is going to be a rough couple of weeks but it’s not an apocalypse. Stay calm, don’t panic and we’ll all be fine.

SMDP Editorial Board

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