Drivers Pull Over to Grab Medical Masks After Someone Dumped More Than 1,000 on a California Highway

More than 1,000 face masks were apparently dumped in the middle of a California highway, authorities said—and some motorists got out of their cars to grab them.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) said it received a call that a white truck had stopped in the middle of lanes on Interstate 880, south of Whipple Road in Union City, on Wednesday afternoon.

A man was reportedly throwing out boxes of medical masks and they ended up strewn across the southbound lanes of the highway, the CHP said. Officials said multiple people stopped and got out of their vehicles to grab the masks, which are in high demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

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It wasn't immediately clear exactly how many masks were dumped, but ABC7 reported that the CHP estimated it was more than 1,000.

According to KTVU, the masks may have accidentally fallen off the man's truck rather than being dumped. A woman told the station that she had been in a liquor store near the scene when a truck driver came in and said the masks had fallen off his truck.

Traffic was brought to a standstill before a road sweeper arrived to clean up the debris.

The CHP's Hayward bureau posted pictures of the scene on Facebook, including a picture that showed dozens of masks on the backseat of a vehicle.

"Hayward CHP received a call of a white truck with an unknown male adult stopping in the middle of lanes to dump boxes of medical masks on I-880 Southbound, south of Whipple Road," the post said.

"Multiple individuals stopped and stepped out of their vehicles to pick up masks. Cal-Trans responded to the scene with a sweeper to clean up the debris."

The CHP also warned people to never step out of the vehicles on a freeway.

CHP
Hundreds of medical masks were strewn across the Interstate 880 in Union City, California. CHP Hayward

"CHP Hayward wants to remind you it is never safe to step out of your vehicle on an active freeway. Please remain in your vehicles for your safety so CHP can handle any debris calls," it said.

According to ABC7, the CHP have not identified the truck driver, but commenters on Facebook called for him to be fined for littering. "Fine him for one count of littering for each one," Dave Vandegrift said.

Others bemoaned the waste of much needed masks amid the pandemic. "What a waste of something necessary now," Gary Cady said.

Dee Murphy added: "Sad use of much needed masks... Hope you cited him for littering."

The CHP has been contacted for additional comment.

This infographic, provided by Statista, shows the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of April 30.

Spread of COVID-19 across the U.S.
Spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.