After discovering that several stores were completely sold out of the diapers she needed, a Utah mother of four broke down in tears. As empty grocery stores and supermarkets have become a common and frustrating reality during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Lauren Whitney has brought attention to the ripple effect of panic buying and hoarding essential supplies in a viral TikTok video.
While recording a video shared on TikTok that's been viewed more than 5.3 million times, Whitney broke down in tears when she couldn't find diapers for her little girl at her local Walmart. "To all you crazy people buying out all the diapers," she says, "how am I supposed to diaper my child if I can't afford to buy 20 at a time like you can?"
Whitney tells Romper that she was already having a "rough week" and "going into so many stores and just seeing the shelves bare of [her daughter's diaper size] was the last straw." But while Whitney was fortunately able to go back the next day and find a box of diapers in her daughter's size, she says the shelves were still "mostly bare."
With more than 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and guidance from health officials to practice social distancing, panic shopping and hoarding has become such a problem in the United States that even President Donald Trump has urged Americans to stop doing it. "You don’t have to buy so much," Trump told reporters from the White House earlier this week. "There’s no need for anybody in the country to hoard essential food supplies."
Although the nation is coping with a difficult and unpredictable time, Whitney says she would like "families to know that we're all in this together, and to watch out for each other."
Like many in the United States, Whitney's job has been impacted by concerns surrounding COVID-19. As of yesterday, she says the movie theater where she works part time will be closed for the next six to 12 weeks and she "will not be getting paid." Of course, she's not alone; for instance, according to USA Today, the coronavirus could impact some 7.4 million jobs for people who work in the "leisure and hospitality sector."
Whitney tells Romper she would like "the people who are stockpiling" to know that "there are families that might not get paid often." She says her husband "only gets one paycheck a month," so "it's hard to get to the stores when the shelves are fully stocked."
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has also urged people to buy only "what you need" and to "think of your friends and your neighbors," while Regina Phelps, a pandemic planner and crisis management expert, told CNBC that "people are doing incredibly silly things" right now when it comes to stockpiling as concerns surrounding the coronavirus grow.
While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s emergencies and disaster prep site recommends having "additional supplies of food and water" during a pandemic, Whitney hopes people are thinking of others during this time as well. "I hope [panic shoppers] take into consideration other families," she says, "that may need these items just as much as they think they do."
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.