Panic buying is a privilege many families can't afford.
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Empty Grocery Stores Reflect A Privilege Many Families Don't Have As COVID-19 Spreads

Families everywhere are experiencing anxiety surrounding the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. In preparation for both social distancing and potential quarantine, many have taken precautions, like stocking up on least two weeks worth of food and buying mountains of toilet paper. At a time like this, though, it's important to remember that all of this panic buying amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak highlights a privilege many families don't have.

The reality is, millions of Americans are only one paycheck away from financial crisis. According to research from Nielsen Global Consumer Insights, 1 in 4 families making $150,000 a year lives paycheck to paycheck, while a survey conducted by the American Payroll Association and the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 74% of all workers experience financial difficulty. Not to mention, nearly 3 in 10 adults have no emergency savings, according to Bankrate's most recent Financial Security Index.

As you can imagine, the threat of COVID-19, which includes the possibility of having to self-quarantine for several weeks, therefore not being able to work without paid sick leave to fall back on for many, is stressing out a ton of families. Getting sick and missing work, even for just a week or two, could be financially catastrophic.

Between monthly bills and everyday life expenses, many families may not be able to afford to stock up on food, cleaning supplies, medicine, and more. And now that grocery store shelves across the nation are emptying at an alarming rate and supermarkets have put limits on toilet paper purchases, those who live paycheck to paycheck may already be running out of necessary supplies and staples.

Plenty of Twitter users have pointed out that, yes, panic buying is a privilege. As one Twitter user put it, "Panic buying is for the rich. The poor will just panic."

Another concern, of course, is for people with disabilities or the elderly, who can't get to the store as easily and may now be in a bind. "I'm house bound post op. The only way I have of getting shopping is deliveries from Tesco," as one Twitter shared. "I got an email today saying that because of panic buying all my shopping may not be available. Thanks a lot morons. Your selfishness leaves people like me, the poor and the elderly without."

As of March 12, there are 1,215 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, including 36 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Globally, the World Health Organization has confirmed over 125,000 cases of the virus and more than 4,600 deaths, and health officials expect these numbers to grow.

As a society, we're facing a tough time right now and it's disheartening enough to see footage of shoppers getting into arguments and altercations with the elderly over toilet paper. If you're among the lucky ones who could afford to stock up on essentials before empty grocery store shelves became a reality, count your blessings and perhaps consider passing along some of your extra items. There are many ways to help families who have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and maybe weren't able to buy ahead, such as giving to your local food bank. At the end of the day, we're all in this together.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.