Coronavirus Concerns Empty Local Stores Of Masks

Medical mask

URBANA – Health officials continue to say that the best protection against the novel coronavirus is hand washing and cough-covering. But if you’re looking for more protection, say in the form of a respiratory mask, you’ll be hard pressed to find one in Champaign-Urbana.

On Sunday and Monday, we checked with pharmacies, big box stores, medical supply stores, even two local hardware stores – all are sold out.

Anita Guffey, Director of the Emergency Management Department at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana says masks are helpful with any kind of airborne infections event, but there are other less expensive and more readily available safeguards.

“When news comes out like something like this people do tend to go out and say ‘I want the most protection I can get.’ But really there are other ways you can go far to protect yourself, and that’s simple good hand hygiene, cover your cough, if you have signs of symptoms of being ill go see your doctor,” said Guffey.

However, a University of Illinois student from China we talked with outside a CVS store in Champaign, is in search of that extra bit of insurance.

“No, I want to buy a mask, they told me the mask is sold out,” said the student. “I think this Champaign is a pretty safe place but it can get worse.  I just want to buy some masks to ensure my future.”

Health Officials On Alert

The University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana confirms McKinley Health Center evaluated one person with possible symptoms but determined they did NOT have the illness. U of I also says students who traveled to Wuhan City over the holiday break are in self-quarantine or wearing surgical masks when going to classes.  A forum with health officials is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Deaths from a new viral disease that is causing mounting global concern have risen by 25 to at least 106 in China. The United States and other governments are preparing to fly their citizens out of the locked-down city at center of the outbreak. The total includes the first death in Beijing and 24 more fatalities in Hubei province, where the outbreak has been centered. Asian stock markets tumbled for a second day, dragged down by worries about the virus’s global economic impact. More than 4,500 cases are confirmed. The U.S., Japan, Mongolia, France and other governments were preparing evacuations.

Two new U.S. cases of the coronavirus were confirmed Sunday: one in Los Angeles County, California, and the other in Maricopa County, Arizona. This brings to five the total number of cases in the U.S. All of the U.S. patients had traveled to Wuhan, the Chinese city that is the center of the outbreak, according to the Associated Press. Canada also has reported two cases of the disease. The first two cases were confirmed in a man in his 30s in Washington state on January 21 and a woman in her 60s in Chicago on January 24, according to the AP.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the coronavirus poses a low risk to the general U.S. population.

Julie Pryde, Public Health Administrator for the Champaign Urbana Public Health District told the Illinois Newsroom on Friday that  influenza and flu activity are actually a greater concern locally.

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