It was a little emotional walking into my local grocery store the other day.
I had stayed away until necessity (and hungry cats) got the better of the advice to stay home.
The empty shelves were expected, but the image was nonetheless jarring.
Perhaps if I lived in a region where natural disasters were prevalent, I would be more accustomed to seeing the kind of panic buying we’ve seen in so many cities.
The mood in the store was subdued. The numbers were small and the people who were there (some wearing masks) kept their distance. But whole sections had been stripped bare.
I thought about how a healthcare worker might react, stopping off to buy a few things at the end of a shift.
The coronavirus is bringing out the good, the bad and the ugly of our society.
There is plenty of good to see. It can be found in the dedication by people working collaboratively and aggressively to get a handle on this disease. They’re on the front lines, treating people who may or may not have the virus. They’re in the labs, at the clinics and in front of the cameras, ensuring we have the most current and factual information.
They’re also behind the scenes, helping maintain the intricate workings of our world, staffing daycares, utility stations, newsrooms, fire halls and emergency call centres. They are our neighbours helping neighbours.
They’re even restocking those empty store shelves.
But with the good comes the bad.
These are the people who ignore advice to wash their hands, restrict personal contact and keep a safe distance from others.
They’re also the ones who feel the best defence from this respiratory illness is a garage full of toilet paper.
Hoarding doesn’t help anyone. It is unnecessary, selfish, and promotes fear.
As the Retail Council of B.C. assures us, we are not going to run out of essential supplies, provided the public acts rationally.
And then there’s the ugly. It didn’t take long for the ethically challenged to figure out how to capitalize on a fearful public.
Fraudsters are using the pandemic to solicit personal information to separate you from your money. A recent example is a text message, purportedly from the Canadian Red Cross, which offers “free” surgical masks in exchange for a steep delivery fee. (The Red Cross says it is not involved.)
But more ugly still is the fear and misinformation being spread, either on purpose or through ignorance. These include suggestions the disease is no worse than the seasonal flu, or that young people can’t get it. Both notions are dangerously false.
There is ample good information out there, and many credible and talented journalists working to get that information to us.
At both the provincial and federal level, health experts are keeping us informed in a transparent and timely way. It is important we listen to these experts and do what they tell us.
We all have a part to play in this pandemic, however small. (I made a point of thanking the checkout clerk at the grocery store for being there. It wasn’t much, but it brought a smile.)
We need to stay safe, stay calm, and help others if we can.
We truly are all in this together.
Greg Knill is a columnist and former Black Press editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.