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By Sara Humphries

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For the first time in recent history, businesses are closing because of a virus, and toilet paper is in the highest demand. Because of the quickly spreading coronavirus — COVID-19 — most people from the United States are required to work from home, attend classes online, distance themselves from others, and self-quarantine. In Georgia, restaurants are only doing take out and are closing before 9:00 p.m., and non-essential businesses are closed. People are filled with fear and uncertainty, not knowing what is going to happen next.

One public response to these measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus has been stockpiling and panic buying. This panic buying has led to shortages in certain items like Lysol disinfectant wipes, Clorox bleach, toilet paper, bottled water, thermometers, canned food, bread, Tylenol, and hand soap.

Many stores have now reduced their opening hours and placed purchasing limits on high-demand products to allow workers to replenish shelves. On March 12, Walgreens announced to all their shoppers that they could only purchase a maximum of four each of disinfectant wipes and cleaners, facemasks, hand sanitizer, thermometers and gloves. Kroger followed in their footsteps and also set a per-order limit on products, including a limit of three each of cold, flu, and sanitary products.

You might think, “So, you can’t buy toilet paper from the stores, but there’s  Amazon!” Or so every American thought until March 11, when Amazon notified their customers that it would restrict sales of products like face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and sprays as well as isopropyl alcohol on its third-party marketplaces. This was partly to prevent opportunists from buying up large stocks from stores and then price-gouging customers online.

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Since the sheltering-in-place and lock-downs began, many Americans have been getting their groceries from Gig, Instacart, Uber, and Lyft drivers. These workers have been on the front lines during this terrible coronavirus outbreak. They shop and deliver food to those who cannot or do not want to leave their homes, and these workers often take food to the sick people in hospitals as well. Many gig workers across the country have a fear of working because they’re vulnerable to the coronavirus every time they work. Since this form of business is essential to Americans’ needs, these workers are forced to work. Gig workers don’t qualify for company health insurance, sick leave, family leave, disability, or workers’ compensation. This is starting an uproar; these workers have gone on strike. Instacart workers are demanding a few things such as free hand sanitizer; adding $5 per order for “hazard pay,” and changing the default in-app tip amount from 5% to 10%. They are also asking for pay for two weeks of sick leave to anyone with a doctor’s note requiring self-quarantine, including those vulnerable to the virus, and extending the original sick pay deadline past April 8.

In time, our economy will be back to normal, but that does not mean this problem can be avoided when the next pandemic hits. There will always be a shortage in supply and demand when it comes to humanity’s knee-jerk reaction to survive.

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