U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams has a serious message for Americans worried about the coronavirus: Stop buying masks.
“Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” Adams, an anesthesiologist who has been surgeon general since 2017, wrote on Twitter.
“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 wrote.
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!
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!
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
Adams also tweeted: “The best way to protect yourself and your community is with everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness.” He also said: “Avoid touching your [face] w/ unwashed hands, and wipe down surfaces with cleaning solution or wipes.”
With the mainstream media feeding the frenzy of fear, Americans have bought up millions of masks, even though they won’t be effective in prevention. Unless they are the right kind and fit perfectly, masks are ineffective — and Adams said they may even worsen the spread.
“You can increase your risk of getting it by wearing a mask if you are not a health care provider,” Adams said during an interview on Fox & Friends on Monday morning.
“Folks who don’t know how to wear them properly tend to touch their faces a lot and actually can increase the spread of coronavirus,” Adams said. “We’re certainly seeing more spread in communities, but it’s important for folks to know that right now their risk as American citizens remains low. There are things people can do to stay safe. There are things they shouldn’t be doing and one of the things they shouldn’t be doing in the general public is going out and buying masks.”
Regular surgical masks only keep out larger particles, and masks known as N95s need to have an airtight fit to work properly. But even if they fit correctly, taking them off exposes users to germs. Health care professionals know the proper way to remove the masks, but few Americans do.
What’s concerning for government officials is the possibility of not being able to buy needed masks for health care workers.
“We’re going to make sure and protect the health of our healthcare providers,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday. “As the President said, we have more than 40 million masks available today. We’ve contracted now with 3M. Thirty-five million more masks per month will be produced, and we’re also going to be working with other manufacturers.”
At a press conference at the White House, President Trump also said supplies are sufficient. “Tremendous amounts of supplies are already on hand. We have 43 million masks, which is far more than anyone would have assumed we could have had so quickly, and a lot more are coming,” he said.
Pence, who has been put in charge of the federal response to the virus by Trump, also told Americans they don’t need masks.
“Let me be very clear — and I’m sure the physicians who are up here will reflect this as well: The average American does not need to go out and buy a mask,” Pence said.
But Americans are panicking. With cases of coronavirus already in cities on both coasts, shoppers have swooped into supermarkets, buying bottled water, canned food and Clorox wipes.
Scientists, though, say young healthy people who contract the virus can expect symptoms not much worse than a flu or bad cold.
“We think that this has a pretty high rate of mild symptoms and can be asymptomatic. The symptoms are pretty non-specific and testing criteria has been pretty strict, so those combinations of factors means that it easily could have been circulating for a bit without us knowing,” said Justin Lessler, an associated professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.