U.S. Surgeon General urges people to stop buying face masks over coronavirus fears


WASHINGTON (CNN Newsource) — The U.S. Surgeon General has a simple request for Americans concerned about the spread of coronavirus, tweeting, “Seriously people — stop buying masks!”

The tweet comes after many Americans bought masks in bulk, leading to shortages.

“There’s no reason to panic,” President Donald Trump said.

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,” Vice President Mike Pence said.

Government officials say face masks aren’t necessary if you are healthy and 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 products 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.

She said she’s been getting a steady stream of phone calls asking about facemasks.

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

Vitelli started Tutem Masks in 2013 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,” Vitelli said. “So there is some level of transparency, some possibility of it coming inside, 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,” Vitelli 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 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 Dr. Celine Gounder, Infectious Diseases Specialist.

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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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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