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Psychology behind wiping store shelves of toilet paper, hand sanitizer during coronavirus outbreak

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TUCSON- As more positive cases of the coronavirus pop up across the country, people are wiping the store shelves clean of supplies like disinfectant wipes to toilet paper.

Trending on Twitter was the #toiletpaperapocalypse, as stores were running out of supplies.

Some of the other items being bought are disinfectant wipes, paper towels, and hand sanitizer.

University of Arizona associate professor Daniel Sullivan said that when pandemics happen people have two types of responses. He said that one of those responses is that people can be very anxious with a public health crisis.

Sullivan said that this happens because of these so called "invisible threats" where people feel they are not really sure when themselves or family members are going to get sick.

He said for people to feel in-control of the situation, people can latch onto something like stocking up on supplies.

"For some people, I think the face masks have served this function that people sort of latched onto those as a way to kind of feel like they are doing something to deal with the issue, but I think for other people maybe storing household goods, things they might not otherwise have on hand preparing for a possible quarantine might be another action that they can take to feel better about the situation," he said.

Click here for tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Priscilla Casper

Priscilla Casper is an anchor and multi-skilled journalist for News 4 Tucson. She anchors weekdays at noon and 4 p.m.

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