News and Commentary

IT’S GETTING WEIRD: Coronavirus Fears Sweep America, Prompting Panic Buying, Canceling Large Gatherings
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All across the nation, people are panicking.

Go into nearly any grocery store and the supply of water is greatly depleted (some stores are completely sold out). People worried about the coronavirus are also buying up toilet paper, frozen food, and dry goods, like there’s a snowstorm or hurricane coming.

Singer Justin Bieber is the latest to get swept up in the spiraling fear. His 45-stop tour in North America is set to kick off next month, but at least eight of the stadiums Beiber was scheduled to perform in have been replaced with smaller arenas, Fox News reported.

South by Southwest (SXSW), the massive week-long party in Austin, Texas, that draws thousands to its tech, film, and music conference, has also been canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The 10-day event last year drew 300,000 people.

“We are devastated to share this news with you. ‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation,” event organizers said in a statement.

So many events are being canceled that a new website was created to keep track –

Google has canceled its I/O developer event this year, set for May 12-14. “Due to concerns around the coronavirus (COVID-19), and in accordance with health guidance from the CDC, WHO, and other health authorities, we have decided to cancel the physical Google I/O event at Shoreline Amphitheatre,” a Google spokesman told The Verge.

This year’s annual Game Developers Conference, set to take place from March 16-20 in San Francisco, has also been postponed over coronavirus fears.

The Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) in Seattle – the hotbed of the infection right now in the U.S. – is yet another large event postponed amid fears.

“We know that this decision is going to greatly impact many of our individual creators, small businesses and service workers. To those whose careers depend on ECCC – we will do everything that we can over the coming days and weeks to highlight your work and we ask that our entire community support you as we realize your personal livelihoods may be impacted,” organizers said in a statement.

Meanwhile, panic buying has gotten completely out of hand in the U.S., which has yet to see the full brunt of the virus.

“In the United States, Kroger says it is capping individual purchases of ‘sanitization, cold and flu-related products,’ while Home Depot is curbing the number of face masks in single orders placed online and in stores,” CNN reported.

Panic shoppers are leaving store shelves empty.

“Some retailers … are having to take drastic action to limit the number of toilet paper rolls, face masks and hand sanitizer bottles each person can buy as customers stockpile goods over fears of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The epidemic has infected more than 97,000 people and killed 3,300 globally, leading to growing alarm that has resulted in mass bulk buying around the world,” CNN wrote.

The panic buying will soon prompt others to join in.

“If you see other people stocking their shopping carts in an anxious frenzy, then that can increase the fear or anxiety in other shoppers, leading people to worry about the scarcity of food, medicines or hygienic supplies,” Steven Taylor, professor and clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia, told NBC News. “The combination of fear, urgency and perceived scarcity can lead to things like people fighting over hand sanitizer in the supermarket aisles. This creates a sense of urgency and leads people to over-buy, that is buying more supplies than they really need, just to be on the safe side. This can create real shortages because people buy more than they need. So, the fear of scarcity can create real scarcities.”

And it’s coming to a grocery store near you soon.