U.S. Surgeon General Urges People to Stop Buying Masks Amid Coronavirus Panic

The U.S. Surgeon General urged the public to stop buying face masks, saying they are not effective in preventing people from catching coronavirus.

In posts on Twitter, Jerome Adams warned that if people stockpile masks, it would leave fewer available to healthcare providers who need them as they care for infected patients.

"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!" he tweeted.

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!
https://t.co/UxZRwxxKL9

— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020

Adams said the best way people can protect themselves is by staying at home if they are unwell and practicing basic hygiene like washing hands with soap and water.

"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 added.

Adams also urged people to get their flu shots as fewer people with flu this seasons leaves more resources available to tackle the new coronavirus disease, which has been named COVID-19.

He shared a link to a guide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.

The CDC advises people to avoid close contact with sick people; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; staying at home when you are sick and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throwing the tissue in the trash.

The CDC does "not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19," the guide adds.

The viral outbreak, which began in China, has now infected more than 86,000 people globally and killed more than 2,900, mostly in China's Hubei province.

But on Saturday, the virus claimed its first victim inside the U.S. after a man from Washington state died.

President Donald Trump spoke at a news conference moments after the death was announced, saying the patient was a woman. But Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, later said on Twitter that the CDC had mistakenly told Trump in an earlier briefing that the victim was a woman.

The Associated Press reported that Redfield said there was "no evidence of link to travel" abroad in the case of the man, who was in his late 50s and described as having a high health risk before contracting the virus.

There are 66 cases of coronavirus in the U.S. including those who were repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was docked off Japan's coast, according to the CDC.

But Trump maintained that "there's no reason to panic at all" and that healthy Americans should be able to recover if they contract the virus.

Surgical masks
Amid fears of a coronavirus pandemic, protective facemasks are sold at a Manhattan hardware store on February 26, 2020 in New York City. Scott Heins/Getty Images