The COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of the United States over the past few months. It’s affected virtually every person’s life in some way, shape, or form. However, before it reached the US, it reached social media platforms. Users took to posting their opinions, without fact checking them first, on multiple platforms. Companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have had to assemble teams to combat the spread of misinformation on their sites. Daniel Rogers of the Global Disinformation Index compared it to a game of “Whack-A-Mole,” as new posts appeared faster than they could be taken down.
Countless false messages regarding the virus circulated the web. Some rumors included that it originated from a government lab in China, that masks were the best way of preventing infection, rubbing your hands together generates enough heat to kill the virus, and of course, that it was completely necessary to buy copious amounts of toilet paper.
All the conflicting information that the population received led to a widespread panic about the virus throughout the country, and world as well. As this is a very new virus that has yet to be thoroughly explored, it’s hard to be sure that your knowledge is accurate. In place, Americans have decided to stockpile their fridges and pantries with food, beverages, toilet paper, face masks, and hand sanitizer.
Only a few weeks ago, hand sanitizer could be found on Amazon for up to $80. Companies that allow third party sellers, such as Amazon, Craigslist, and Ebay, have had to implement measures to reduce price gouging. This practice occurs when a seller increases the price of goods beyond what is reasonable or fair. Many sellers saw an opportunity to capitalize on people’s fear and panic about the virus and set the prices exorbitantly high so they were able to turn a large profit.
Furthermore, the lack of consumers has forced some small businesses to let go of staff members or close down completely. Movies, restaurants, bars, and clubs are not receiving as much foot traffic as before because of social distancing (a sad but necessary measure). Households have lost one or both sources of income. This causes price inflation and lack of supplies to greatly affect them. Additionally, the lack of customers has forced some small businesses to let go of some of their staff.
Our health care workers are on the front lines of this battle, putting themselves and their families at risk everyday in order to care for our families. In the US, there is a lack of personal protective gear, especially the N95 mask. In Houston, an auctioneer is being sued by the state of Texas for price gouging. He was attempting to sell an N95 mask for $750,000.
Many companies have begun to threaten legal action against those who engage in price gouging during the pandemic, and I completely agree. One such company is Amazon, in an attempt to get the insanely high priced hand sanitizer off of their site. Steps need to be taken so that essentials are available to the general population, not just those with enough excess money to spend the extra cash for these materials.
These actions are despicable, especially in our country’s time of need. Uncertainty and sadness is running rampant throughout the population. We should be coming together to support each other instead of trying to profit off of misinformation. Although this virus is tragic, many are hopeful it will shine a light on the best parts of the population: the part that is willing to donate meals for those who relied on school lunches, those who offer to grocery shop for the eldery to reduce their risk of exposure, those who make sure not to hoard important supplies. In essence, practicing basic compassion and care amongst ourselves.
I hope everybody in the KO community is doing well and staying safe during these uncertain times. I hope to see you all soon!