As I’m writing this, I’m awaiting a grocery delivery and scheduling additional deliveries of supplies. This is the new way of living in COVID-19 stricken America: Order in, and stay away.
But what are we doing for those who can’t afford to just order in and stay away? Perhaps we need to take a break from our “Coronavirus Panic” online shopping sprees and assess the bigger picture.
3:20 PM UPDATE: Governor Steve Sisolak (D) is ordering all non-essential businesses (such as casinos and dine-in restaurants) to close shop to stop further spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. In light of this breaking news, we really need to have this discussion.
Who knew grocery shopping could be this climactic?
Last weekend, I did what should have been my usual errands. But of course, in “The Era of The ‘Rona”, “usual” is being completely redefined before our eyes. I tried the first store last Friday, a store that until very recently was known to carry all sorts of specialty foods and drinks. Yet once I arrived, the store had already run out of fresh spinach, fresh kale, hand sanitizer, hand soap, and toilet paper. And in the interest of full transparency, I scored the last six-pack of paper towels.
The next day, I tried a grocery store closer to home just to see if they had any items. That didn’t work, either. As “Coronavirus Panic” had already begun settling in, the store had already sold out of hand sanitizer, disinfectant sprays, disinfectant wipes, and toilet paper. I didn’t even bother buying anything that was left on the shelves there.
For the last three days, I’ve been scouring online for certain home supplies I’ll need to take on our new common enemy that is COVID-19. I found hand soap at one online store, and disinfectant spray, paper towels, and dish soap at another. And thanks to one friend who wisely began stocking up on supplies last week and another who wisely scoured one of the local dollar stores, I finally got more hand sanitizer and toilet paper!
On top of all this, I also managed to get a few more groceries delivered to my undisclosed location/base camp this morning. Seriously, I’ve never been more excited about grocery and home supply shopping than I am now.
Yes, we can all use some stimulus… But we can’t afford to f–k this s–t up.
I’ve run into some good fortune as of late with my COVID-19 supply gathering, but I know many more Americans haven’t been as fortunate. After all, according to a 2018 Federal Reserve report, some 39% of Americans struggle with emergencies that cost $400 or more. As I explained in yesterday’s coronavirus update, there’s real danger in the ongoing wave of shutdowns cascading into lost income.
And as we discussed yesterday, there is real merit to the emergency UBI/cash payment stimulus that Democrats like former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Obama White House Chief Economic Advisor Jason Furman have been championing, and that Republicans like U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have suddenly endorsed. But unless this $1,000 emergency UBI is offered alongside targeted aid for those most in need (again, think of programs like Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and student loan forgiveness), we run the risk of UBI payments encouraging those with means to do more “Coronavirus Panic” shopping and hoarding while those who are more cash strapped (because they’ve lost their paychecks) still don’t have enough to pay the rent, pay utility bills, and buy whatever groceries and supplies the hoarders haven’t already gobbled up.
In other words, we need to stop panicking over toilet paper and maple syrup. We also need to stop buying into propaganda that distorts the reality of who most needs the social safety net. We need to not only start practicing what we preach about social distancing, but we need to start providing the resources to make it economically feasible for everyone to do what’s necessary to fend off COVID-19. (Hint: Working-class households typically don’t have the cash reserves and additional access to liquidity that multinational corporations do.)
As we focus on filling our own fridges and pantries, let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture.
I haven’t just been shopping for myself these last four days. I’ve also been in constant contact with my father as he’s had to navigate this stark new world of shortages and social distancing. Thankfully, between my online orders and nearby relatives who’ve managed to beat the hoarders at the grocery stores, he has food in his fridge and supplies in his pantry. (We’ll soon talk more about his last round of doctor appointments.)
In these trying times, it’s easy for us to develop a sort of tunnel vision of panic over toilet paper, maple syrup, and other creature comforts we’d rather not live without (especially now that we’re increasingly facing widespread orders to stay home). We ultimately need to look beyond our own pantries and realize that as long as others in our communities have trouble filling theirs, we’ll all continue to face higher risks of exposure to novel coronavirus and contraction of COVID-19.
While we await further action from the federal government, we might as well take our own. If you’re in need of medical treatment but can’t afford a trip to the hospital or doctor’s office, check this list of 59 low and no cost health clinics across Nevada. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Mutual Aid Disaster Relief and local groups like Three Square.