There has never been a wrong time to reference alternative rock band REM’s classic hit “It’s the End of the World,” but right now seems to be the most ideal. All around the world, news of the coronavirus outbreak has started metaphorical fires that have created apocalyptical headlines across the globe.
As grocery chains around the country struggle to maintain their stock and as the stock market continues to tumble, the fearful, the panicked and the ignorant litter public places across America. In turn, COVID-19 lurks among crowds of innocent bystanders looking for that last pack of toilet paper they “forgot” they needed.
On the morning of March 12, I found myself at the grocery store for a few things. Eggs, almond milk, turkey bacon, some snacks and, yes, toilet paper. For a Thursday morning, I found it strange to see the store so busy, even if it was Spring Break.
After collecting my goods, I rounded back for the toilet paper aisle. To my surprise, there was only one pack of the store-branded paper left on the shelf. Standing next to it was a couple, each with a basket filled to the brim with the maximum limit of items the store was allowing customers to purchase. They mentioned “it is a pretty good idea to start thinking about stocking up.” Reaching for that last pack, I smiled at them but opted against conversation.
Making my way to the check-out lines, I realized the store had become busier and couldn’t be happier to be leaving. I hurried home to drop off my groceries before making my way to work. I must mention that I work for the same grocery chain I shopped at, albeit a different location in College Station. The scene at my store when I arrived at 10:30 a.m. was no different and only became more maddening.
Working through the eight-hour shift, I wondered how many people passing by may be unknowingly spreading the virus they are desperately seeking to avoid. Working on the deli counter requires constant contact with customers and employees; this environment is precisely the place COVID-19 has thrived. Over and again, health professionals have warned us to avoid crowds, yet all across the nation, some ignore precautions. The grocery store lines are still long.
Being young and relatively healthy, my fears of catching the virus are minimal when compared to my concern of getting someone else sick. However, being that I am diabetic creates an entirely different set of challenges, fears and anxiety. The virus is especially dangerous to the elderly and those with severe underlying health conditions.
It sounds ridiculous, and it is a trivial example. However, I often worry if the unsweet tea I ordered will come out sweetened. Now, I worry if the man coughing at the counter is merely suffering from allergies or developing "the rona" as he asks for 2 pounds of oven-roasted turkey.
Baskets loaded with 12 pack jumbo rolls of toilet paper, four packs of water, ramen noodles and processed lunch meat whirred around the store, and the people kept piling in. The virus was always going to get to Bryan-College Station. It was just a matter of time.
Fast forward to the morning of March 16. Donald Trump advises the elderly and those with serious underlying health issues to stay away from people if possible. The next day, right here in B-CS, the first case of coronavirus was reported. As of March 18, part of the department I work in has now officially closed, and it appears I will be without work for the next few weeks.
Indeed, I am but one of many who will find myself struggling during this trying time. Like so many, I will have to adapt to this situation as it is continually evolving.
One of my grandmothers in New York is virtually locked down in her home. My youngest sister has ulcerative colitis, a vile autoimmune disease that has already controlled so many aspects of her life. Two of my aunts are nurses, fighting the virus on the ground level. These are just a few of the people within my circle that are being impacted by the illness. With the growing number of cases each day, careless individuals must understand how dangerous their actions can affect the lives of so many others.
A friend of mine, Kunal Shahidadpury, Class of 2013, said it best — “health is wealth.” If public officials have already advised you to stay home, then stay home! Class and work are both canceled all week, so like the brown recluse, I will continue to seclude myself. The risk is not worth an extra few cans of green beans or an additional pack of toilet paper.
By respecting the warnings, not hoarding supplies and, most importantly, applying some common sense, we can begin to ease the stress for the hundreds of thousands of people that will be impacted by this deadly virus. My first article published this semester was written as a welcome back to Aggieland, now I am writing about having to stay away from Aggieland. Rightfully so because after all, it's the end of the world as we know it. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to wash your hands.