- Coronavirus panic has led to shoppers stockpiling goods – but not all of them are necessary to have on hand.
- Business Insider spoke with two experts to find out which wildly popular prepper items you don’t need to stockpile, from toilet paper to hand sanitizer.
- The main takeaway: Don’t go overboard. Most supplies need to last only the 14 days of a quarantine.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As coronavirus cases increase in countries including the United States, shoppers have scrambled to stockpile supplies, emptying store shelves of many goods. However, not all the items they’re frantically stockpiling are necessary or even useful.
Business Insider spoke with two experts about what not to panic buy for a potential coronavirus quarantine.
Dr. Manisha Juthani is an associate professor of medicine of infectious diseases and epidemiology of microbial diseases at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Irwin Redlener is the director of the National Centre for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, where he is also a professor of health policy at the Mailman School of Public Health.
Here are five wildly popular items that shoppers have been stockpiling that aren’t useful or necessary, according to these experts.
But a cart of toilet paper is beyond overkill for the 14-day duration of a coronavirus quarantine.
“Having some supply of toilet paper in the house is worthwhile,” Juthani said. “But stockpiling toilet paper is also not necessary.”
Redlener was also baffled by the popularity of toilet paper as an emergency supply, saying, “There’s nothing particular that I’m aware of that would make that a particularly difficult-to-acquire commodity.”
Shoppers have been clearing grocery-store shelves of bottled water. But loading up on bottled water isn’t necessary, Juthani said.
“We are fortunate to live in a country where most tap water is drinkable,” Juthani told Business Insider. “Based on what we know about this disease, the water system should not be threatened.”
The coronavirus outbreak is unlikely to affect the availability of drinking water in the US. However, Redlener said that some people in areas with less readily available supplies should make sure they have a 14-day supply of water at home to last through a quarantine.
Though batteries are generally useful to have in many emergency situations, stockpiling batteries in case of a coronavirus quarantine isn’t necessary. There’s also a low likelihood that the outbreak will affect major infrastructure systems like water and electricity.
Redlener said he isn’t worried about the electrical grid.
“I doubt that we’d be in any kind of situation where electricity would be down,” he said.
However, Redlener said that a 14-day supply of batteries would still be useful for families with children who play with battery-powered toys.
Hand sanitizer can help to prevent infections, but clearing the shelves of it is excessive. Juthani emphasised that while hand sanitizer can be useful, most containers last a long time.
“Good old-fashioned soap and water are good enough for hand hygiene,” Juthani said. “Although hand sanitizer is convenient and easy to bring with you, I think stockpiling it is not necessary.”
Redlener said that while hand sanitizer can be useful, panic buying has contributed to the item selling out in many areas.
“You want to go out and purchase backup supplies for a potential quarantine in a measured and thoughtful way and not go rushing out and just going crazy,” Redlener said.
Too much nonperishable food
It’s necessary to make sure you have a 14-day supply of food at home in case you’re quarantined. Both Redlener and Juthani emphasised taking a measured and gradual approach to acquiring supplies.
However, Redlener said, many shoppers go overboard when purchasing food supplies, loading up on cases of tuna and peanut butter. And in some urban areas where grocery and food delivery is common, it may not be necessary at all.
“It depends on where you live,” Redlener said. “Because in New York City, everybody can get prepared food and grocery delivered. But in cities and urban and rural areas where that’s not possible, that would be a different story.”