EDITORIAL – Remembering the great toilet-paper panic of March 2020

(Image: Mel Rothenburger)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.


You might think things haven’t changed much since last March — COVID-19 still dominates every aspect of our lives. People are still getting sick and still dying.

But some things are different now. The panic that grabbed hold of us a year ago and instilled fear in all hearts has subsided.

Compare today to March 9, 2020, exactly 12 months ago, two days before the pandemic was officially declared. On that day, I wrote an editorial about a strange phenomenon — people were emptying the shelves of toilet paper, afraid they’d be caught short.

It was an irrational response to advice from authorities that we stock up on essentials in case we had to quarantine. As word spread about panic buying of toilet paper in other places, everyone joined in the rush.

In some cities, there were near riots. Police had to step in to break up fights. Instant entrepreneurs were buying up all the toilet paper they could get their hands on, then reselling it at exorbitant markups.

Stores were forced to put limits on the number of rolls per customer.

It didn’t stop with toilet paper, either. For a while, you couldn’t find a bottle of hand sanitizer anywhere in Kamloops. Hand wipes were at a premium. Home refrigerators were crammed full of frozen dinners. Paper towels were in big demand.

Stories were rampant about shortages of flour, baking supplies, canning jars, garden seeds and chickens. Some of these stories became self-fulfilling prophesies.

As time went on, though, things sorted themselves out. The supply chain adjusted. We stopped being so silly. There are still occasional gaps, still empty shelves once in a while, but the panic is gone.

Looking back at it now, we can laugh at ourselves, laugh at how illogical we were.

We’ve learned to live with the virus. The fact we can laugh at all is something to celebrate.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9504 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Remembering the great toilet-paper panic of March 2020

  1. We are still quite silly…just that at the moment the individual silliness is not coagulating on something so asinine as toilet paper shortage fears.

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