U.S. surgeon general urges public to stop buying face masks


(CNN/KIRO) — Despite calls for calm, concern is setting in among Americans — fear the coronavirus will spread to their community. Store shelves are coming up short in hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and most of all, face masks.

“The average American does not need a mask,” said Vice-President Mike Pence.

Government officials say face masks aren’t necessary if you are healthy, and they don’t entirely provide protection against the coronavirus. Even still, brick and mortar stores are struggling to keep up with demand. Companies like Home Depot, Rite Aid, Target, Lowes, CVS, Walgreens all tell CNN they’re working to expedite product to their stores. Home Depot is limiting 10 masks per customer. And sites like Amazon shut down suppliers accused of price gouging.

Jody Vitelli is seeing her small business begin to boom. What kind of phone calls is she getting?

“Do you have any masks and how fast can I get them? The answer is we have many masks,” said Vitelli of Tutem Masks.

In 2013, Vitelli started Tutem Masks to stop the spread of germs on airplanes. And now her masks, which provide the most basic level of protection, are in high demand.

“This is not an N-95 respirator, so there is some level of transparency, some possibility of it coming inside,” said Vitelli. “It’s a very good tool.”

Vitelli says she gets the public’s concern and the masks allow people to feel in control of their health.

“If you touch something, you’re less likely to touch your nose and mouth if you’re wearing a face mask,” she said.

The need for a sense of security is also driving internet searches.

Helium ten, a software company that assists Amazon retailers,-tells CNN Amazon users have searched for the word “N-95 mask” more than 862,000 times in the last 30 days. significantly up from last month. The federal government announced its taking steps to increase the availability of N-95 respirator masks and will prioritize them for healthcare workers.

“If we as healthcare providers do not have the tools we need, some of us may not feel safe going to work, and then all kinds of other things will break down,” said infectious diseases specialist Dr. Celine Gounder.

For now, health officials urge your best line of defense is simple and cheap — wash your hands and cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze.

Based on CNN’s count using information confirmed by the CDC and state health agencies, there were more than 70 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the united states as of Sunday morning.

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