Surgeon General asking people to stop buying masks for protection against coronavirus

Buying masks could create shortage for healthcare providers

ROANOKE, Va. – If you’re thinking about heading to your local drug store, big-box retailer or even hardware store to get disposable masks for protection against the coronavirus, you may be out of luck.

“They’re hard to find, but we will (find them.) It’s a big city,” Roanoke resident Deborah Jones said.

Jones was looking for them at the Towers CVS Monday morning because her grandson had just been diagnosed with the flu and needed to wear a mask.

“We haven’t been anywhere else," Jones said.

The store was sold out.

That wasn’t the only store. A local Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger and Ace Hardware store were also sold out and have been for a couple of weeks.

The more people buy masks, the fewer suppliers have to send to medical facilities.

That’s why over the weekend the U.S. Surgeon General urged people to stop buying masks, saying in a tweet, “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!”

“Preparation is happening in the background all the time," Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association Marketing Vice President Julian Walker.

Walker emphasized the Virginia Healthcare Emergency Management Program constantly prepares to respond to emergencies, including disease outbreaks.

Whether that preparation includes how to deal with a shortage of masks, he couldn’t say.

“With respect to specific shortages, I’ve not registered any of them. That doesn’t mean that there are or are not providers that may have some challenges,” said Walker.

Regardless, he said the public should be confident their providers are prepared.