Face masks have proven to be a hot seller in the wake of all the troubling coronavirus news, but the U.S. Surgeon General says that you shouldn’t buy them. Not only will they do very little to keep you safe from COVID-19 in your day-to-day life, a run on the masks will make it more difficult for medical professionals to keep them in stock.
“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” Dr. Jerome Adams 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!”
Adams’ concerns were quickly echoed by Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization who warned that a run on protective equipment was leading to price gouging and limited supplies for hospitals and clinics where masks are actually needed.
“There are severe strains on protective equipment around the world,” Ryan said Friday. “Our primary concern is to ensure that our front line health workers are protected and that they have the equipment they need to do their jobs. There are limits to how a mask can protect you from being infected. The most important thing everyone can do is wash your hands, keep your hands away from your face and observe very precise hygiene.”
The rush to purchase face masks and sanitizers is obvious in the marketplace; this week, an Amazon spokesman said that sellers raising prices on their supplies could face consequences.
“Sellers set their own product prices in our store and we have policies to help ensure sellers are pricing products competitively. We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies,” the site said.
By the middle of the week, Amazon had already run out of many common protective supplies.
In an exchange with Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) on Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said it was important for Americans to exercise good hygiene but reiterated the need to remain practical. Asked if people should be stocking up on food or prescription medications, Redfield said that this type of preparation work is premature.
“Not at this time,” he said.
“Should people be afraid?” Houlahan asked.
“No,” he said.
“Should you wear a mask if you’re healthy?” she asked.
“No,” Dr. Redfield said. “There is no role for these masks in the community. These masks need to be prioritized for health care professionals that as part of their job are taking care of individuals.”
We’ll see if this united front against face masks makes any difference; when a pandemic is in the air and spreading fast, people are going to do what they think is best for themselves and their families. Whether those precautions are rational or not, that’s just the way it is.