Surgeon General Urges the Public to Stop Buying Face Masks

Surgeon General Urges the Public to Stop Buying Face Masks

The surgeon general on Saturday urged the public to stop buying masks, warning that it won’t help against the spread of the coronavirus but will take away important resources from health care professionals.

“Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” the surgeon general, Jerome M. Adams, said in a tweet on Saturday morning. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

The plea comes as panicked consumers rush to buy masks online, including so-called N95s, a surge that has led to price gouging and counterfeit products.

In another tweet, Mr. Adams said the best way to protect against the virus is to wash hands regularly, and for those who are feeling ill to stay home.

Health officials around the world have been imploring the public to stop buying masks if they are healthy or not caring for someone who is ill. Medical professionals need a large supply of the masks because they are in direct contact with infected patients and must change their masks repeatedly.

“There are severe strains on protective equipment around the world,” said Dr. Michael J. Ryan, executive director of the health emergency program at the World Health Organization, during a briefing on Friday. “Our primary concern is to ensure that our front line health workers are protected and that they have the equipment they need to do their jobs.”

Dr. Ryan said masks primarily prevent a person from giving the disease to someone else.

“There are limits to how a mask can protect you from being infected,” he said. “The most important thing everyone can do is wash your hands, keep your hands away from your face and observe very precise hygiene.”

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Answers to your most common questions:

    Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all nonessential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world was not ready for a major outbreak.