Though many are stocking up on face masks in the hopes that it will protect them against the growing coronavirus crisis, Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams is urging the public to rethink their purchase. The chief doctor even took to Twitter to spread his plea.
Dr. Adams claimed that the masks were "useless" in stopping the spread of coronavirus, according to The New York Times. However, he added that though they are not helpful against COVID-19, they are needed for other illnesses and the growing demand has left a shortage for health care professionals.
"Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!" he tweeted. "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!"
Dr. Adams is not the first health expert to have urged the public not to buy the face masks. Dr. Michael J. Ryan, executive director of the health emergency program at the World Health Organization, had also issued an appeal to leave face masks for those who needed them
"There are severe strains on protective equipment around the world," Dr. Ryan explained. "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 reiterated the surgeon general's claim that face masks would not prevent the virus, instead emphasizing that face masks were mainly helpful in stopping an infected person from spreading the disease. He added that the best form of prevention was attention to hygiene, particularly hand washing.
According to experts, the most likely form of transmission was touching a contaminated surface, and not through air droplets.
Nevertheless, the public has maintained a demand for the face masks. Vice President Mike Pence -- who is leading the government's response to the virus -- has claimed that the administration would have around 40 million face masks available on Saturday. An additional 30 million will reportedly be manufactured throughout the month.
Moreover, the doctors' entreaties about face masks have not gone without criticism.
Mike Bowen, the executive vice president of Prestige Ameritech, pointed out that the masks were not a difficult product to produce.
"They're cheap. They're automated. They're not handmade," he said.
Face masks are currently selling for at least $10 each on Amazon, though the price may increase as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country.
As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, a 50-year-old man from Washington state died earlier today from the disease. He is the first person in the U.S. to have passed away due to the illness.