Face mask sales are up 319% as Americans ignore CDC calls to stop hoarding them

Hospitals are running out of critical face masks as civilians are panic-buying medical supplies en masse amidst the coronavirus global pandemic.

bundles of N95 face masks
Photo by Jonathan Klein / Getty Images
  • Sales of medical masks are up by a whopping 319% as civilians hoard medical supplies to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The CDC and WHO are urging the public not to buy and wear the masks as some hospitals are now in danger of running out of critical respirator masks.
  • At this point, coronavirus has infected at least 1,000 Americans and more than 115,800 people around the world.

In the midst of what has officially been declared a global pandemic caused by the coronavirus outbreak, Americans are frantically hoarding medical masks and other supplies. Compared to last February, health supplies sales have drastically increased as civilians prepare for the novel virus to find its way into local neighborhoods.

The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a respiratory disease that comes from a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Illness severity ranges from mild, with some people reporting no symptoms, to severe and even fatal. Serious illness occurs in around 16% of patients. At this point, the disease has been found in 35 states plus the District of Columbia and has infected at least 1,000 Americans. So far, it has caused 25 deaths in the United States. Across the globe, COVID-19 has infected more than 115,800 people and killed over 4,200, but these numbers are certain to rise as authorities struggle to contain the rapid spread of the virus.

According to data from the Nielsen Retail Measurement Services, sales of medical masks are up by a whopping 319% while household maintenance masks purchases have gone up by 262%. Additionally, sales of thermometers have increased by 47%, hand sanitizer by 73%, and aerosol disinfectants by 32%.

The danger of hoarding supplies

Chart showing coronavirus-related product sales

Photo: Statista / IBT

As cases of coronavirus climb daily, The New York Times reports that several hospitals are in danger of running out of N95 masks, which are tighter and thicker than surgical masks. They are essential for protecting health care workers and controlling the epidemic, but some hospitals are claiming they have hardly more than a month's supply left and that restocking has proven difficult as supplies are being bought out en masse.

"We can't get any. Everything's back ordered," Dr. Marc Habert, a pediatrician in New York explained to the Times. "I was on a phone call earlier with the local department of health and they basically said the state has supplies, but we need to show we tried to order from three separate places first."

Health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), are urging the public not to buy and wear the masks to decrease chances of getting infected by the coronavirus.

"Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!" tweeted Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, on February 29. "They are NOT effective in preventing [the] 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!"

A smarter way to prepare

By Alexander Radtke

Source: FlowingData

So what can you do to protect yourself from the coronavirus outbreak? First, don't completely freak out and know if you are at risk. Those who are at higher risk for developing serious COVID-19 illness are older adults and people with severe underlying health conditions — for example, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. Right now there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it, so the best thing you can do is take precautions against spreading the virus.

Here are the most effective ways that you can arm yourself against contracting and spreading the coronavirus, without contributing to hospital shortages of critical supplies, as outlined by the CDC:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds or longer. (Especially after sneezing, coughing, or being in a public place.) If it isn't possible, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Try to avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places such as elevator buttons, door handles, and handrails. If you do, wash your hands after.
  • Don't touch your face, eyes, and mouth.
  • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated areas.
  • Don't shake or hold hands with others.
  • Cancel non-essential travel plans, including plane trips.
  • Clean and disinfect your home.

If you do end up getting sick, stay home and call your doctor immediately. Most people will be able to recover from coronavirus at home – Here's a guide on how. The CDC advises that you plan ahead and have medical supplies to treat the symptoms on hand, such as over-the-counter medicines and tissues, along with groceries and other household items so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.

For more information on the best ways to prepare for the coronavirus, see the CDC's recommendations on its website.

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