“Masks are not recommended for use by most Americans..."

By Alison Fox
Updated March 03, 2020
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The Surgeon General is asking Americans to stop buying masks to protect against coronavirus, saying they are ineffective and the purchases could actually cause a shortage for healthcare workers who need them to treat sick patients. 

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams urged people to stop buying the masks in a tweet over the weekend and repeated the plea in an opinion piece published on CNN, adding there are other ways people can protect themselves against the spread of coronavirus.

He added on Twitter that: “Surgical masks don’t provide YOU respiratory protection against diseases like #Coronavirus. They protect others from YOUR cough.” Adams noted that the N95 respirator masks require “special “fit” testing” and wearing them improperly could actually increase the risk of contracting a disease. 

This comes as the price of respirator masks has surged online and supplies run low, according to CBS News.

So far in the U.S., more than 100 people have contracted the disease and six people have died. In total, the virus has infected more than 90,000 people worldwide and caused more than 3,100 deaths.

People wear face masks as they walk down a street in Flushing area of Queens on March 2, 2020 in New York City.
JOHANNES EISELE / Getty Images

“Masks are not recommended for use by most Americans, and hoarding of masks can actually hurt our response by reducing the supply available for medical professionals who need them,” Adams wrote in the CNN piece. “It's critically important our health providers have masks and other medical supplies when caring for people who have been exposed to the virus.”

Instead, Adams suggested practicing hygiene like washing your hands frequently and cleaning surfaces.

“We should be cautious and take appropriate measures to prepare and protect ourselves, but we should not be afraid,” Adams wrote. “We've been through this before and no place in the world is better prepared to handle this challenge. Let's turn fear into actions that will help us all stay safe.”