CDC says no need for face masks; Ozarks stores selling out amid coronavirus scares

Published: Feb. 26, 2020 at 9:22 PM CST
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Stores all across the Ozarks are selling out of face masks and respirators because of fears of the 2019 novel coronavirus.

"I went through the ACE product line and there's just nothing available," said Westlake Ace Hardware assistant manager Bob Bowman. "Everything is just out."

Surgical masks and N-95 respirators are hard, if not impossible, to find right now. Most stores are now sold out of products that usually don't leave the shelf.

"If I sell a dozen a year, I'm doing good," Bowman said.

He said he ordered around 100 of the N-95 respirators about three weeks ago. The masks are typically used for working around dust and mold.

"After I started getting them in the calls just kept coming," Bowman said. "They'd buy eight to 10 packages at a time and that's really unusual."

He said the cause of panic is the 2019 novel coronavirus.

"We know what it's for because of the high demand," Bowman said.

He said Wednesday morning a few of his racks still had masks. By 3 p.m. all the store had left was a couple of racks with dust masks. Bowman said the dust masks are basically useless when it comes to to protecting you from a virus.

"I think [people] are doing it just in desperation," he said.

The health department said the desperation is unnecessary.

"There's really no recommended reason for the general public to have masks at this time, it's really not going to do the public any good," said Kendra Findley, administrator of community health and epidemiology for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

She said there are better ways to be prepared.

"When there's a risk placed before [people], they want to have some action to help ready themselves or protect themselves and their family, that's completely understandable," Findley said. "I would just urge people to mentally prepare and that's the best thing you can do."

She said families should prepare themselves like they have the last few tough flu seasons. Overall, she says a mask isn't necessary.

Bowman said stores aren't likely to restock any time soon.

"From what I know, I think most of [the new masks] are going to the health care workers, right now, for their protection," Bowman said. "That's where we want it to go."