As the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the United States grows, the Surgeon General urged Americans to stop buying face masks. In a tweet posted over the weekend, the nation's top doctor noted that while face masks are not effective in preventing the general public from catching the virus, they are vital for healthcare providers.
"Seriously people, STOP BUYING MASKS!" a tweet from Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams read. "They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus." The Surgeon General's plea comes as the number of U.S. coronavirus cases jumped from 65 to 89 over the weekend, according to CNN.
Adams went on to warn that consumer panic could have dangerous consequences as those who, according to the Surgeon General, really do need face masks, find themselves unable to get them. "If healthcare providers can't get [face masks] to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk," Adams cautioned.
The Surgeon General also linked to prevention and treatment guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which do not include the use of face masks by healthy individuals. "[The] CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19," the CDC notes. "Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."
In a later tweet, the Surgeon General noted that while the coronavirus "is a serious disease," the general public's immediate health risk "is considered low" for now.
More than 87,000 people have contracted COVID-19 worldwide, according to data from the World Health Organization. While the majority of cases have been within China, CNN reported Monday that the number of coronavirus cases in the United States rose from 65 to 89 over the weekend after patients in Oregon, Florida, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington state tested positive for the virus. The United States also saw its first coronavirus death over the weekend, when a man, reportedly in his 50s, with pre-existing health conditions and no history of travel, died in Washington state on Saturday, according to NPR.
In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Adams reiterated his plea for Americans to stop buying face masks, noting that healthy people improperly wearing masks could potentially increase their risk of contracting the virus by repeatedly touching their face. "It actually does not help," Adams said of wearing face masks. "It has not been proven to be effective in preventing spread of coronavirus amongst the general public."
"As a healthcare provider I have to get fit tested," Adams continued. "Folks who don't know how to wear them properly tend to touch their faces a lot and actually it can increase the spread of coronavirus."
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all our Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.