OPINION: The need for trusted news sources greater now than ever

The shelves were empty of toilet paper at Sarnia’s Walmart on Saturday, March 15, and stocks of bread, cleaning products and other staples were exhausted as residents got swept up in panic buying over the COVID-19 scare. Troy Shantz

 

Cathy Dobson

I sincerely hope you’re listening.

We’re living through a public health crisis that many believe will define our time. What you do about it matters.

It matters that you and everyone in your family washes their hands frequently and properly. It matters that we practice social distancing. It matters that you know what to do if you think you’ve contracted COVID-19.

What doesn’t matter is having 400 rolls of toilet paper in your house.

It became clear to me early in this crisis that people were oddly trying to make themselves feel better by rushing to the store and clearing the shelves of TP.  It sold out. Weirdness ensued, with one person selling 48 rolls of toilet paper on Sarnia Varagesale for $300.

Are you kidding me?

As I was checking out of my neighbourhood grocery store last week I mentioned to the cashier how strange it is for people to hoard toilet paper.

She readily agreed, and told of shoppers highly anxious about germs.  They’re so afraid of COVID-19 they break into tears, she told me.

“I try to reassure them. I tell them the media are exaggerating everything. The way the media goes on about it 24-7 is really disgusting.”

I froze.

“The media is blowing this right up and making people afraid,” she continued. “It’s just terrible what they’re doing.”

Okay, let’s break this down. Yes, some media outlets are more about fear mongering than accuracy. And I agree it’s nearly impossible to find news anywhere that isn’t about the pandemic.

It’s overwhelming, and I wish the news reports were exaggerated, but most aren’t.

But please, don’t tune it out altogether. Don’t ignore the advice of public health officials. Be informed so the decisions you make help limit the virus’s spread.

It’s not a hoax.

Government and health officials are working around-the-clock to make decisions to “flatten the curve” and save lives. Pay attention to what they say, whether via TV, radio or newspaper.

But ensure your information comes from a trusted source. Some sites online do indeed spread fake news.

At another local store, customers were swapping stories about the empty shelves, and how strange it is that some people left nothing for others.

“My grandmother went to buy some toilet paper and she couldn’t find any,” said one woman, verging of tears.

“My grandmother doesn’t have any extra money and she took a taxi to three different stores, and still couldn’t find any toilet paper. So now she doesn’t have any. These hoarders don’t have any thought for anyone else.”

I hope by the time this pandemic runs its course I’ll be reporting on how much we’ve pulled together to flatten the curve in Sarnia-Lambton. In fact, I’m counting on it.

And to the cashier who blames the media: I know you weren’t being malicious. But for the welfare of all of us, please stay informed.