Six Months Later

We’ve been living with this coronavirus, COVID-19, for more than six months now. Are you as tired of it as I am?

Last night, as I considered today’s post, I realized I wasn’t in the mood to finish a travel piece, or the political commentary I was working on. So you’ll have to wait for pictures of Vienna, or my thoughts on the American Supreme court. Soon for both I hope.

Instead I thought we’d go back to March 7 of this year, which seems like forever ago. This wasn’t my first post to mention COVID-19, but it was the first to focus on it. I thought perhaps we could revisit it, and I would add some comments in italics, just to remind us all what things were like at the beginning.

Have you stocked up? Have the warnings about coronavirus (COVID-19) sent you scurrying to the store, just in case? I didn’t stock up. No regrets about not panicking – but it was fascinating to observe how we as a society responded.

I hadn’t given any thought to the matter until a friend called complaining that there was neither hand sanitizer nor face masks available at any pharmacy in the region. My first thought was that people were panicking – there’s not much chance of catching the disease in rural Germany. People don’t travel to the coronavirus hotspots. Many don’t even travel to nearest village. I was so wrong about the chances of contracting COVID-19. Unbeknownst to me, as I wrote this two people I knew were recovering from what they just thought was a bad case of the flu but was shown in later testing to be COVID-19. By the beginning of April more than half a dozen people I know had contracted it. One died. Turns out rural areas weren’t any safer than cities.

They do watch television though, and browse the internet. They know what is happening in China, Italy and Iran. They have heard the suggestion that you should have a couple weeks food and basic supplies stocked up, just in case you catch the virus and have to be quarantined.

My wife, who travels around the area a lot more than I do, says she has noticed shortages in area grocery stores, especially toilet paper. In some stores there was none to be had. Pasta also had vanished from the shelves. The shortages didn’t last long. Which meant that by the time I needed to but toilet paper it was back on the shelves. I only bought one package – I didn’t think there would be further hoarding, and so far I have been right.

What I noticed at the little store here in Sulzburg was that people were stocking up – but you could call it a controlled panic. It was as if the warnings were being taken seriously, but people weren’t going overboard.

I didn’t notice any toilet paper shortages. Then again, the store is small and there isn’t much shelf space. Stick has to be replenished almost daily for a lot of items. It is not uncommon for them to run out of fresh milk, or at least the type I buy. They did run out of toilet paper right after I published this.

This panic is also selective. I noticed when I needed flour. I had been baking and wanted to pick up a bit more, just in case. When the stuff is only available in one-kilo bags it is easy to run out.

I was confronted with a couple of empty shelves. Panicked people had bought all the flour. Except they hadn’t.

Our local grocery, small as it is, tries to offer variety. There is more than one type of flour and more than one brand on the shelves.

The empty shelves are usually stocked with the house brand, which as all budget-conscious shoppers know, costs 39 cents a kilo. It was all gone.

I checked the following day. The shelves were still empty. And the next day. And the one after that. That didn’t mean I couldn’t buy flour though.

The pricier flour, bags from name brands and the “bio” flour was available in the usual quantities. Day after day I checked. Each time there was lots. (The same was true of pasta, the house brand sold out, but there was lots of other pasta on the shelves.)

The difference per bag is sixty cents. At that price it didn’t seem anyone was buying. The people who were panicked weren’t panicked enough to spend extra money. I guess they realized the coronovirus risk is low in this area.

After about four days the shelves were replenished with a new shipment of cheap flour. I guess the panic is over, at least for now. The panic has not returned, even with a supposed second wave being either here or on the horizon (depending on which expert you listen to). I think though it could return if the virus spread worsens.

What does this say about human nature? A crisis where people rush to the store to buy staples – but only if they are cheap. I can’t quite figure it out. Can you?

So much has changed since March. COVID-19 still dominates our societies, with no end in sight. Life goes on, but we are all tired and wish the new normal, whatever it looks like, would come soon.

How are you feeling these days?



  1. The shortage which lasted the longest here was for yeast. Several months in fact.

    1. I’d forgotten about the yeast shortage. It was the same here – except it was only the cheap brands that were unavailable, there was lots os expensive yeast on the shelves. The only thing that sold out in all forms was toilet paper.

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