Dr. Oz Says He'll 'Never Understand' Hoarding Toilet Paper amid Coronavirus Pandemic: 'Stay Calm'
"We've faced plenty of challenges before, and we’ll figure this one out too," Dr. Mehmet Oz said
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
The health expert went shopping on Saturday evening and came across a scene that has become all too common in stores across the United States: empty shelves that were once stocked with toilet paper.
“I went shopping today and there was no toilet paper. (Much to my chagrin there was plenty of soap.) Why we buy out toilet paper is something I’ll never understand,” he wrote on Facebook alongside a photo of empty store shelves. “Humans are hearty bunch. We’ve fixed problems far under the sea and on the face of the moon…yet we panic buy more toilet paper than we can possibly fit in our carts and cars.”
The physician added, “(1) Don’t panic — keep your distance from people, and if you feel sick, stay home. (2) Buy the essentials for two weeks, no more. Leave supples [sic] for everyone else. (3) Trust in the fact that if you somehow run out of toilet paper, a friendly neighbor would find a way to safely deliver you some.”
Oz also reminded his fans and followers to “stay calm” amid the global pandemic.
“And if it really came to it, our ancestors survived without TP. This is my way of telling you to stay calm and keep your head down. We’ve faced plenty of challenges before, and we’ll figure this one out too,” he concluded.
Around the country, stores are struggling to keep their toilet paper in stock. The New York Times reported that a Whole Foods supermarket in Somerville, Massachusetts, limited shoppers to two packages of toilet paper each, a move that is being adopted by more stores around the nation.
Psychologist Mary Alvord, who is also an associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine, told TIME that this panic buying can be explained by people’s desire for a sense of comfort amid the chaos.
“There is comfort in knowing that it’s there,” Alvord said. “We all eat and we all sleep and we all poop. It’s a basic need to take care of ourselves.”
Another health expert, Dr. Steven Taylor, author of The Psychology of Pandemics, also told The Independent that “sensitivity to disgust increases” during a pandemic.
“They are more likely to experience the emotion of disgust and are motivated to avoid that,” he told the outlet. “Disgust is like an alarm mechanism that warns you to avoid some contamination. So if I see a hand railing covered in saliva I’m not gonna touch it, I’m gonna feel disgust. And that keeps us safe.”
“So there is a very tight connection between fear of getting infected and disgust,” Taylor said. “And what better tool for eliminating disgusting material than toilet paper. I think this is how it became a conditioned symbol of safety.”
Similarly, the panic appears to come from the worry of having to be confined to one’s home and not being able to readily stock up on supplies, according to Dr. Jay Zagorsky who told The Boston Globe: “Bulk buying toilet paper eliminates the small risk of running out if quarantined. People might not be able to eliminate the risk of catching coronavirus but they can eliminate the risk of running out of toilet paper, which makes most people feel they have control in this very uncertain situation.”
The New York Times reported that manufacturers and paper industry executives are raising production to meet the demand.
Government and health officials also urge Americans to follow protocols outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help contain the spread. This includes washing your hands often and social distancing for the time being.