Police departments are often having to remind the public not to dial the emergency number because they’ve run out of toilet paper or they can’t stop burping.
But several police departments in Southern California, in the US, say they have been receiving 911 calls from people who are worried because their neighbours have a cough.
Coronavirus panic went viral more quickly than the disease itself, and panic buying, racist assaults and needless emergency calls are all soaking up police time.
Mike Casavan, of the Palm Springs Police Department, told the Desert Sun newspaper that dispatchers have received at least five calls from people who want police to deal with a coughing neighbour in the past week.
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Police Commander Paul Herrera of neighbouring Cathedral City said that dispatchers in his area have received similar calls.
On every call now, police are carrying extra supplies to minimise the danger of infection.
"Safety of officers is priority, they've been given a number of updates, we're following CDC guidelines," Herrera said.
He added that his officers are taking anti-coronavirus kits with them in every call: "These kits contain sanitary towels, N95 flat-fold masks, latex gloves, safety glasses, biohazard bags — basic infectious control items," he said.
"We use the bags to pick up everything from an incident site.”
Meanwhile, Californians have been crossing the border to do their panic-buying in Mexico. “It’s tough for us to come down here to get things, but we’re going to try it,” one local told radio station WKBN 27.
Another man said he had driven down from San Diego to stock up in a Mexican Costco: “It’s still not very bad right now here, they have a lot of products, they’re not selling you more than four packages of anything, four is the maximum.”
There are 9,415 cases currently reported in the US, as opposed to just 118 in Mexico.
So far only one Mexican has died from the disease, while 16 Americans have died in California alone.
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