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Face masks sell out in Central Virginia over flu, coronavirus fears

Posted at 5:04 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 17:26:01-05

RICHMOND, Va., -- Customers across Central Virginia are finding empty store shelves where face masks are normally well-stocked.

Employees at Bremo Pharmacy on Staples Mill Road told CBS 6 their supply of surgical masks ran out a few weeks ago.

“So many people have been buying them up and we haven’t been able to get more,” said pharmacy resident Dr. Emily Gicewicz.

By noon Wednesday, nearly two dozen customers had called Bremo inquiring about face masks.

Masks were also sold out at the Target and CVS stores in the Willow Lawn area – as well as various pharmacies in Central Virginia.

Virginia Department of Health (VDH) officials said they’re waiting for the results of novel coronavirus tests for two patients in the Commonwealth – one each in the Southwest and Northern regions.

No Virginians have tested positive for the respiratory illness that has origins to animals in the Wuhan area of China.

“There’s a very low risk for the coronavirus disease in the United States,” Gicewicz explained. “I would tell people not to lose sleep over it. You’re more likely to get the flu than the coronavirus.”

In fact, experts with the CDC recommend healthy individuals to not wear face masks.

“The masks are not effective because when you’re wearing them you often touch your face, your nose, and your eyes to adjust it,” Gicewicz stated. “You can actually spread the virus more and come in contact with the virus that way.”

Face masks do help people are infected with a virus from spreading it to others. Experts recommend avoiding people who are sick and staying home if you have symptoms.

“Take every day preventative actions to help stop the spread of flu viruses! Avoid close contact with sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands often (with soap and water),” according to the CDC website.

An employee at the CVS on West Broad Street said their supply of face masks may be replenished when a shipment truck arrives on Friday.