As the coronavirus spreads and governments try valiantly to contain it, people around the world are trying as best they can to live their lives in uncertain times. Unfortunately, the disease is revealing two sides of the picture that is humanity, a beautiful side and an ugly side. On the ugly side, people are thinking only of themselves, failing to see the big picture, or even worse, trying to make a quick buck off a global pandemic. On the beautiful side, whole cities are rallying to get food into hungry stomachs, and people are bending over backward to make sure their elderly neighbors’ needs are met while thinking outside the box in order to offer whatever help they can medically and technologically.
Here, now, are some examples of how the coronavirus has brought out the best and worst of humanity.
Worst: Panic-Buying, Hoarding, And Price-Gouging
When the dust has settled from the coronavirus pandemic and history looks back on these events, one issue that’s sure to be talked about is how the panic led to store shelves being stripped bare of some goods.
Panic-buying is, like an addiction, a disease that feeds on itself. Someone gets it into their head that they may run out of toilet paper, and they go to the store and buy as much as they can carry home. The next shopper, seeing a reduced supply of toilet paper, figures that they better buy some before it’s all gone, and buy more than they need. And it continues, ad infinitum.
It’s not just toilet paper. As reported by The Inquisitr, two Tennessee men bought all of the hand sanitizer in two states, then reportedly tried to sell it at huge markups.
On TikTok, a mother filmed herself crying because she couldn’t even buy diapers for her babies because panic-buyers had bought them all up. She later went viral, as her raw emotion tapped into what untold numbers of other Americans are experiencing.
Best: Setting Aside Shopping Hours Just For The Most Vulnerable Of Our Population
Panic-buyers may be stripping shelves bare, but the supply lines, for now, remain secure, meaning that a store that is empty now may have what you need when the next truck arrives.
Unfortunately, even if they can find what they need on store shelves, many potential customers shouldn’t be out shopping. The elderly, for example, and those with compromised immune systems, should probably be avoiding contact with other humans until further notice.
To that end, many stores across the country are offering special hours that are reserved for senior citizens and other vulnerable populations.
Worst: Throwing People Into Jail Because That’s What America Does
As reported by Slate, with few exceptions, American courts are proceeding as if there is no coronavirus. Rather than practice social distancing, courts are packing defendants into small rooms, and in many cases throwing them into jail, for minor, nonviolent offenses like driving without a license or possession of drug paraphernalia.
One New Jersey judge even threw an aged, possibly immuno-compromised defendant into jail, telling the defendant’s lawyer that she (the judge) wasn’t going to entertain any coronavirus defenses.
That the justice system continues to operate almost full speed ahead in spite of a global pandemic is something of a visual metaphor for how America, which has more people incarcerated than all other nations combined, continues to propagate its cruel criminal justice system beyond all reason and sanity.
Best: Getting Food Into Hungry Stomachs
It’s no secret that schools are shuttered across the country. What you may have missed in all of the stories of school closings is that millions of American schoolchildren depend on free or reduced-cost school lunches for the bulk of their nutrition. For many kids, it’s the only hot, nutritious meal they receive all day.
Many American communities are having none of that. In Cincinnati, local restaurants left and right are promising free meals to food-insecure schoolchildren who miss out on lunch, on a takeout basis. In Springfield, Illinois, an upscale Italian restaurant even invited kids to eat inside — at least, until Illinois’ governor shut down all bars and restaurants. Other communities are mobilizing volunteers to deliver still-operational school cafeteria lunches to needy kids. In some cases, volunteers are donating their own food.
Worst: Failing To See The Big Picture
By now, just about everyone reading this article has been reminded, multiple times, of the importance of sheltering in place and avoiding large groups. Unfortunately, many people, younger ones in particular, are completely ignoring that guidance.
Sure, the coronavirus may not be deadly to healthy people in their 20s, which may explain why so many young people continue to crowd into Florida beaches for Spring Break. Yet, when those young people return home, there’s a very good chance they’ll bring it home to their families, who may not be as able to fight off the virus as they are.
It’s not just Florida beaches. People have been ignoring orders to avoid close contact with others and crowding into bars — at least until state governors shuttered them. In at least one case in Nashville, a bar owner steadfastly refused to close his bar, on the city’s mayor’s orders, brushing off coronavirus as not a big deal.
Downtown Nashville is undefeated. pic.twitter.com/BFIOzukFct
— Janna Abraham (@SportsPundette) March 15, 2020
Similarly, at least one sports league has defied orders to stop holding sporting events. UFC boss Dana White refused to cancel upcoming events, instead only moving them to different facilities. He still intends to hold them, with spectators, unless the state of Nevada steps in and forbids it.
Best: Paying Employees Who Aren’t Working
One industry that is going to be decimated, perhaps irreparably, from this pandemic is the tourism industry. Travel is all but off the table and crowding into theme parks and/or cruise ships is simply unacceptable right now.
All Disney theme parks in the United States are currently closed. However, the Walt Disney Company has promised to pay its employees while the parks are shut down until further notice.
A rare sight! ????What has been known as "The Happiest Place on Earth" is now closed and empty due to the coronavirus pandemic. Until they open again, what's your favorite #Disney memory? ????(Courtesy: WESH)#DisneyWorld #Orlando pic.twitter.com/M63oK1BMAm
— News12 (@News12) March 18, 2020
It’s a gesture being repeated elsewhere across the country, by employers large and small.
Worst: Endangering Employees For No Good Reason
On the other side, there’s Costco. As BuzzFeed News reports, the retail giant ordered all white-collar employees to work in the office (rather than telecommuting) at headquarters in Washington state, while the pandemic rages. At least one employee of the company has already died of COVID-19, and yet the building remains open.
“The company has handled everything very poorly. Someone died and they’re still keeping the building open and having us come in,” said an employee who asked not to be named.
Best: Using At-Home Technology To Solve Supply Shortages
As Fast Company reports, hospitals across the country and indeed the world either have run out of or are likely to run out of life-or-death medical supplies. As COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, artificial ventilators are almost certainly going to be the difference between life and death for untold numbers of patients.
Complimenti a Cristian Fracassi, @temporelli73 e tutte le persone che lo hanno aiutato nella impresa di stampare in 3d le valvole mancanti per i respiratori dell'Ospedale di Chiari a Brescia.
(qui l'articolo completo https://t.co/QYZu6x9X1T) #SolidarietaDigitale #iorestoacasa pic.twitter.com/dF3G2RJY8S
— Paola Pisano (@PaolaPisano_Min) March 15, 2020
In Italy, people were dying because hospitals lacked valves for respirator machines. And so it was that enterprising Italians, in possession of 3D printers, began printing the valves at home and giving them to hospitals for free, saving an untold number of lives.
“We were ready to print the valves in a couple of hours, and the day after we had 100 valves printed,” said one of the home printers.
Worst: Suing Users Of At-Home Technology Who 3D Print Hospital Supplies
The manufacturer of the valves was not at all pleased about that, as The Verge reports. The company, which sells the valves for about $11,000 per unit (and which cost about $1 each to 3D print), threatened to sue the makers of those homemade valves for copyright infringement.
The Very Best: Just Being A Good Person
We are not all able to do magnanimous things like 3D print lifesaving medical equipment. Not all of our budgets allow for donating to food distribution efforts. Nor do any of us have the power to convince our state’s courts to suspend operations while a pandemic spreads.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. Making a phone call to an elderly relative, perhaps one who is isolated, doesn’t cost anything. Nor does it cost anything to ask an isolated friend or neighbor if you can pick up their grocery order, or run by a restaurant and pick up their dinner order. Also free is taking a friend or neighbor’s dogs for a walk, or helping a friend’s child, home from school, with a subject you might be more knowledgeable about than their parents.
When all else fails, simply staying at home and watching TV, rather than cavorting about with crowds, doesn’t cost anything either.
And that may be the absolute best thing any of us can do in these trying times.