Why the rush on toilet paper? One economist believes he knows

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NOVATO, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 14: A Costco employee hands out packages of toilet paper to customers at a Costco store on March 14, 2020 in Novato, California. Some Americans are stocking up on food, toilet paper, water and other items after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — While many people understand the rush on hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and bottled water in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the one product flying off the shelves that have people puzzled?

Toilet paper.

Across the country, the isles where toilet paper is kept are bare.

“I really needed toilet paper, I don’t have much left,” said Cinita Brothers, a Hampton, VA resident, who came out empty-handed from a Kroger store.

Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a respiratory infection and none of the symptoms match up with any issue toilet paper is used to deal with.

However, Dr. Jay Zagorsky, Senior Lecturer at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, points to “Zero Risk Bias” as the reason.

“Zero Risk Bias (is when) people prefer to try to eliminate one type of possibly superficial risk entirely rather than do something that would reduce their total risk by a greater amount,” Zagorsky wrote for the online publication The Conversation.

“Hoarding also makes people feel secure. This is especially relevant when the world is faced with a novel disease over which all of us have little or no control. However, we can control things like having enough toilet paper in case we are quarantined.”

While supplies are limited, many stores have limited the amount of toilet paper people can purchase.

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