Feb 29, 2020 - Health

CVS faces shortage of face masks and hand sanitizer as coronavirus fears rise

In this image, a man wearing a face mask pushes a shopping cart through a CVS parking lot
A shops in Alhambra, California on Feb. 27 Photo: Frederic Brown via Getty Images

As more people are buying out Clorox wipes, sprays and bleach, CVS is handling temporary shortages of hand sanitizer and fitted N95 face masks that began earlier this month, CVS spokesperson Joe Goode told Axios.

Driving the news: Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington announced Friday that four patients are presumed to have the novel coronavirus. Three of them were infected by unknown means, per the CDC, while the fourth case is likely travel related.

Details: CVS shortages began in early February, Goode said, and the company is resupplying as quickly as possible amid a "surge in customer demand." CVS does not currently have a significant shortage of disinfectant wipes or sprays, he said.

  • Goode declined to identify which CVS locations are experiencing these temporary shortages, noting that the company has a local retail presence in 10,000 communities.

Reality check: Washing your hands is the best way to protect against the coronavirus, according to doctors and health officials.

  • The U.S. Surgeon General urged Americans to "stop buying masks" on Saturday, saying that "if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"
  • Jerome Adams said that face masks are not effective for keeping the general public from catching the coronavirus.

The big picture: There are severe shortages of face masks in China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, as people are encouraged to wear them.

  • When low-risk countries stockpile N-95 masks, they are taking the supply away from people who have an immediate need for them, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.

Go deeper... California coronavirus: Latest case has no recent history of international travel

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