U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams implored his fellow Americans in a tweet on Saturday.
“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” he tweeted.
“They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
Dr. Adams was responding to the current run on items in stores that many people may be buying unnecessarily.
Pasadena stores, including Ralph’s, Target and Trader Joe’s had numerous empty shelves on Monday as customers made a run on hand sanitizer, water, toilet paper and surgical masks.
Disinfectants were also selling at a high rate, according to a Ralph’s employee that did not wish to be named.
Clorox stock price soared as purchases increased.
Customers are stocking up on the items as the CDC continues to warn of a possible health crisis. The virus began in Wuhan, China in January and has spread rapidly around the world infecting almost 90,000 people, and killing over 3,000 worldwide. The U.S. has suffered the first fatalities from the virus over the past several days. On Monday it was announced that six people had died at a nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington.
Leonard De La Cruz, the Director of Infection Prevention Control at Huntington Memorial Hospital gave a statement concerning the virus in a short video posted to the hospital’s website.
“There is a lot of concern about the coronavirus because we do not know a lot about it,” he said.
COVID-19. or the novel coronavirus as it is being referred to, is different from the four strains of the Coronavirus which commonly appear during cold and flu season. Both can be wiped using common household disinfectants as well as alcohol. However, unlike the common flu, there is currently no vaccine for coronavirus.
Because the virus is transmitted by someone coughing or sneezing, De La Cruz says the best way to avoid being exposed to or transmitting the virus is to simply, “stay away from people who have it, or stay at home if you are sick.”
According to De La Cruz, there is a high demand for masks globally, and resources are limited.
Pattye Anderson, a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner who works with patients in West Hills, agrees that a lot of people’s fears about catching the virus are being assuaged by purchasing items they believe will keep them safe from the virus even though they won’t.
“As a seasoned healthcare provider and primary care clinician, I feel there [are] excessive and sometimes unwarranted concerns over purchasing hand sanitizers and facial masks.”
Anderson feels that most of the items that are flying off of store shelves should be left for use by those who really need them.
“While I do agree with the use of personal protective equipment (face masks, gloves, gowns and shoe covers) for staff in healthcare professions,” she said. “Purchasing these items by laypeople is generally unnecessary.”
People more often than not are carrying the virus and aren’t aware of it. Buying these personal protection items oftentimes is in vain.
“The coronavirus plus many other infectious bacterial and viral syndromes have long incubation periods.” Anderson said.
“This means, individuals are infectious even when they feel and look well,” she added.
Anderson said steps to avoid contracting the virus are simple and do not require people to clear the shelves of medical items that can be utilized elsewhere.
“For one, by remaining overall healthy and avoiding large crowds. Two, by remembering to perform frequent washing of hands and covering all coughs. Three, by discarding any used tissues. And four, by staying hydrated. “