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, 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.
While masks help prevent the spread of droplets from a person’s cough or sneeze, medical specialists have said masks are generally not effective because air can get in around the edges of the masks.
A person is more likely to get infected by touching contaminated surfaces than from a droplet traveling through the air. But medical professionals need a large supply of the masks because they are in direct contact with infected patients and must change their masks repeatedly.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday that it was critical that masks remain available for doctors and nurses who were caring for those affected by the virus and for people tending to loved ones with the illness.
“There is no role for these masks in the community,” he said. “These masks need to be prioritized for health care professionals that as part of their job are taking care of individuals.”