Coronavirus causing a run on masks, NCPA study shows

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Americans are much more worried about the Coronavirus than their local pharmacists, according to a national survey, and they’re snapping up surgical masks faster than the stores can get them.

“The news coverage is clearly affecting consumer behavior,” said Brian Caswell, president of the National Community Pharmacists Association and owner of Wolkar Pharmacy in Baxter Springs, Kan. “Pharmacists are divided on whether the coronavirus is a serious health threat, but a strong majority of their customers are highly concerned.”

Thirty-two percent of pharmacists surveyed say the Coronavirus is a significant public health threat, according to the survey released today. Forty-two percent disagree, while 26% are unsure. Fifty-four percent of them say, however, that their patients are very worried.

Sixty-three percent of local pharmacists say their customers are buying surgical masks as a precaution, while a staggering 96% say they’re selling them faster than they can restock. Nearly 40% say they can’t get enough respirator masks. Many are reporting shortages of hand sanitizers, surface sanitizers, and gloves as well.

“Patients are on edge and they’re preparing,” said Caswell.

He pointed out that local pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers in most communities. In fact, pharmacies in many states now administer flu shots and other vaccinations thanks to recent changes in the law. They’re very well-positioned to do the same for coronavirus and other new infectious diseases when vaccines are developed.

Wall-to-wall news coverage of the coronavirus is causing concern among patients, and they’re rushing to buy items they hope will protect them and their families. Only a handful of cases have been reported here, compared to China and other parts of the world where thousands are infected.

“It’s wise to be prepared, but there’s no reason for Americans to panic,” said Caswell. “The flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. Only a handful of Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus in this country and there are not yet any fatalities. Americans should remember to wash their hands frequently, avoid crowds if possible, and disinfect the things they touch. And if they have any questions, they should absolutely feel free to stop by the local pharmacy and talk to the pharmacist. That’s why we’re here.”

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