Health Officials Caution Against ‘Mad Rush’ For Supplies, Stockpiling Face Masks

Mar 2, 2020, 11:02 PM
Rebecca Ward, health educator with the Utah Department of Health....
Rebecca Ward, health educator with the Utah Department of Health.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Worries about the coronavirus coming to Utah sent many people to their local stores, stocking up on supplies. However, health experts warned that some might be taking it too far.

Officials at the Utah Department of Health said it is respiratory season, and just like any other year, we should minimize the spread of illness with basic precautions. 

“Number one is get vaccinated for influenza, and wash your hands frequently,” said Rebecca Ward, health educator with the Utah Department of Health. “It’s a respiratory virus, so washing your hands, covering your cough, those sorts of things can go a long, long way.”

There are, however, concerns that the mad rush for supplies, in at least some cases, might be an overreaction.

“We want people to kind of think ahead a little bit down the road,” Ward said.

She said some preparation is a good idea but added Utahns should treat it like something similar to the measures they would take for any flu season.

That means stocking up on things like antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, along with things Utahns would need if they can’t leave their house during a two-week quarantine.

“Do I need to think about getting additional medications? Do I need to think about additional food? It may not be necessary at this point to stock up on multiple things, other than just what’s necessary for the time being,” Ward said.

Ward also said there are no currently confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Utah.

But if someone does develop symptoms, especially if they’ve been in contact with someone infected or recently returned from an area with an outbreak, Ward said to call a doctor — don’t just show up at an urgent care center.

“Call your healthcare provider and they will be in touch with public health to determine what the next steps would be,” Ward said.

And where people were really taking the preparations too far was with surgical masks.

Stockpiling them has made it more difficult for those who really need them — people who are already infected and don’t want to spread the virus, and healthcare workers.

“If you’re not sick, the masks have really not shown to be that beneficial to keep you from getting sick. It’s if you’re sick, you want to keep it from spreading to other people,” Ward said. “We want to make sure that we have the masks that are necessary for those who really need it. And really healthcare workers are the ones who will need it the most, and then, of course, sick patients.”

And just like any respiratory season, Ward said to cover coughs and sneezes, wash your hands and get a flu shot. She said those are measures we should always follow.

Coronavirus Resources

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How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a facemask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

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Health Officials Caution Against ‘Mad Rush’ For Supplies, Stockpiling Face Masks