A supersized package of toilet paper was returned to the empty shelf at a Lynnwood store on Friday. (Andrea Brown/The Herald)

A supersized package of toilet paper was returned to the empty shelf at a Lynnwood store on Friday. (Andrea Brown/The Herald)

Coronavirus sparks rush on toilet paper — and condoms?

Stock the pantry and medicine cabinet, and get things to entertain the family and pets for 14 days.

EVERETT — As panic mounts over coronavirus, so do sales of toilet paper and bottled water.

There’s also a mad rush for condoms — but it’s not quite what you think.

What’s up with that?

This isn’t your classic bomb-shelter stockpile of canned beans and powdered milk.

It’s driven by fear of the virus pandemic and also by FOMO (fear of missing out), the phenomenon of anxiety over the possibility of missing out on something. In this case, missing out in the experience of the frenzy of buying toilet paper.

So, warned to avoid close contact and large gatherings, with reckless abandon we join the thousands flocking to Costco. Go figure.

On a day the store sold out of bottled water and toilet paper, people could be overheard griping and musing about it nonstop.

“The T.P. I can understand, but not the water,” a shopper at the Everett Costco remarked.

“If we don’t have water we can drink alcohol,” another said.

I’ll drink to that.

Others questioned the rationale of hoarding toilet paper for a respiratory illness. After all, this is coronavirus, not the norovirus.

In some places, police have had to break up fights over the commodity.

The bathroom tissue looting is the butt of many jokes.

An Australian newspaper printed a special eight-page pullout of blank paper with handy cut lines to use as “toilet newspaper.” Some might say that would be a better use than the rubbish I write.

My son’s wife ordered a 24-pack online.

“I couldn’t believe it when she told me that she bought toilet paper from the internet,” he said.

Cory Rosen, a random guy I interviewed at a Starbucks for another virus story, wasn’t having any of it.

“I’m not running out to the store to get toilet paper,” Rosen told me. “That’s ridiculous. They say you should have a two-week supply. That’s what triggers panic. So what do people do? They go out and buy a four-week supply of toilet paper.”

Not me. I bought a four-week supply of rolling papers.

A surge in the sale of condoms began after viral posts encouraged people to use the prophylactics on their fingers when pushing elevator buttons and PIN pads.

These are handy so people staying in can get frisky amid the panic. A pundit on TV compared it to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It has reached six continents, sparing only the researchers in Antarctica.

In Italy, the entire country of 60 million people is on lockdown because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

On a comforting note, Stephen King tweeted it’s not as serious as his “The Stand” apocalyptic plague nightmare that kills off over 99% of the world’s population. Easy for him to say when there are no cases in Maine … yet.

In our state, it’s easy to panic.

Suddenly, this microscope crown-like villain with the name similar to a popular beer is closing schools, drastically changing our daily lives — and killing people.

Medical workers in full body protective gear stand outside suburban clinics to triage patients. The few Girl Scouts still selling cookies outside stores sanitize their hands after every sale. Costco no longer hands out food samples.

The state tells us to use a sponge or wet cloth to seal election ballots: “Whether healthy or sick, please don’t lick.”

To be serious — and this is serious — what do people need?

Officials say to have two weeks of medical, food and household supplies for all family members, including pets.

That’s just good emergency preparedness, and what experts have been saying for years to do. About time we listened.

An “abundance of caution,” not an abundance of toilet paper.

That’s the catchphrase for the reason behind closures of schools, meetings and businesses. The Woodland Park Zoo closed its gift store for a deep cleaning because of a shop worker attending a “hot zone” school. Certain indoor, high-traffic areas will be closed until March 30, including the Zoomazium, Willawong Station and Bug World.

What do people really need in addition to the necessities?

Things to pass the time while hunkering down, either to avoid going out in public or in case of quarantine for 14 days.

Think about it: This goes beyond board games and a good book (not “The Stand”) to hair color and bubble bath. This might be a good time to buy a yoga mat or dig out that “Buns of Steel” DVD.

“Work, household chores and a lot of Netflix” is what Herald writer Joseph Thompson reported people quarantined in Snohomish County were doing in a recent story.

Those forced to stay home rely on family, friends or the health district to deliver groceries and other supplies for two weeks.

That’s why you better stock up.

Do you really want to ask your mom to pick up Trojans?

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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