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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: If you’re panic buying toilet paper and water, you’re part of the problem

A Costco store in Tigard, Ore.
Shoppers visiting a Costco in Tigard, Ore., pass a sign that indicates the store has sold out of toilet paper and other supplies.
(Gillian Flaccus / Associated Press)

To the editor: The coronavirus panic buying of water, toilet paper and cleaning supplies vividly illustrates the “tragedy of the commons,” in which people behave in their own self-interest by depleting shared resources. Your editorial cautioning about a pandemic panic encourages reason over irrationality and correctly criticizes coronavirus scams such as “miracle cures” promoted by televangelists.

What occurred to me when observing people emerging from Costco with stacks of toilet paper and water is that tap water is readily available and not affected by the virus. Stocking up on bottled water for earthquakes is rational, but it makes no sense for a virus outbreak.

The fear of a supply shortage creates a shortage. People need to use more common sense and not hoard supplies that could be used by others now.

Bob Ladendorf, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Coronavirus is not the driver sending people to stock up on toilet paper. It pays to take a 10,000-foot view of this disaster.

We often refer to destructive weather events as “natural disasters.” There are no natural disasters. Nature takes its course. What is disastrous is our response to the event.

Are we prepared? Have we projected probabilities? Have we examined externalities and, critically important, have we learned?

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When we come back down to the ground floor, we can see that the evidence suggests that science has done its work, but the disconnect between research and public policy, particularly in this presidential administration, is disastrous.

Michael Davidson, Altadena

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To the editor: I certainly understand not wanting to ever run out of toilet paper, but thankfully this is not the norovirus. Some extra canned food can’t hurt, and I have also stocked up on alcohol and aloe vera to make sanitizer.

These are all useful at any time, not just during a pandemic.

But water? Gallons and gallons of water in plastic bottles? Don’t we have enough in our earthquake stash? Do people think that the local utility is going to catch the virus and close? Will we no longer have water flowing from our faucets?

For those who are afraid of drinking tap water, they can always filter it or boil it (I assume our electricity and gas will stay on). But this panic buying of water implies that people have been drinking tap water up until now.

Am I missing something?

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Planaria Price, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Columnist Sandy Banks is right: The possible loss of toilet paper to American households could lead to a total wipeout of civilization.

If things go from bad to worse, could American women decide to use only one square instead of two or even, heaven forbid, three squares? What about men? Would they have to forage among the plants in the backyard to find leaves big enough to serve as a substitute for paper?

Would those households without a bidet bring in the hose through the window to serve as a quasi bidet? Will people buy washcloths as a substitute for paper and start a run on them? Washing machines would be going day and night.

If there is one thing that liberals and conservatives can agree on, it is this: The toilets must keep on flushing, and the toilet paper must keep on rolling.

Mark Walker, Chino Hills


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