- Since the first case of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was reported in December 2019, the virus has spread to 47 countries, infected 81,000 people, and killed 2,760 worldwide.
- Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Selena Gomez, and Bella Hadid have posted pictures on social media of themselves taking precautions against contracting the virus by sporting face masks.
- But wearing surgical masks and N95 respirator masks has not been recommended by any health organization for healthy people.
- Masks work for people infected with the virus, or doctors in close contact with patients who have the virus. Buying them could worsen the impending shortage of these masks.
- It would be more effective if celebrities promoted hand-washing.
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With global anxiety on the rise concerning the spread of the coronavirus — which has infected 81,000 people and killed 2,760 worldwide — healthy people are flocking to Amazon to buy surgical masks and N95 respirator masks.
They include celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson, who have shared photos of themselves wearing face masks, expressing concern about the fast-spreading virus.
Paltrow, founder of the controversial alternative wellness company Goop, posted a selfie on Instagram wearing a black face mask on a flight to France, with a caption that referenced her appearance in the 2011 movie “Contagion” — the story of a fictional epidemic that took over the world.
“I’ve already been in this movie,” the 47-year-old actress wrote.
Hudson also took to Instagram with an airplane selfie, wearing a surgical mask and expressing her conern about traveling.
But experts warn Paltrow, Hudson, Hadid, Gomez, Jenner, and other celebrities are buying into a common myth about coronavirus prevention.
It is pointless to wear a facemask if you do not have the virus and are not a medical professional coming into contact with it
Wearing a face mask won’t affect you, but it’s (likely) pointless, and it may cause problems for people who really need it.
“There’s little harm in it,” Eric Toner, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Business Insider in a previous article.“But it’s not likely to be very effective in preventing it.”
A surgical mask helps to stop droplets spitting from a person’s mouth onto a surface or their hands, spreading the virus. It should be worn only if a patient presents with strong flu-like symptoms or has recently traveled to the Hubei province of China recently.
N95 respirators are useful for medical professionals in close contact with lots of patients with the virus because they filter out 95% of small particles, but for the average person they won’t do much because coronavirus particles are heavy and, while they may spread through the air to an extent, it mostly spreads through surfaces.
Don’t wear a mask, wash your hands
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent the spread of the virus and keep yourself healthy are the same ways to stop the spread of common germs: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and avoid contact with sick people.
Common household cleaners like bleach and products like Clorox and Lysol can help clean surfaces of the virus, though they have not been 100% proven to be effective against the current strain of the virus.
And if you don’t have access to a sink, hand sanitizer can be effective in preventing the spread of common germs from person to person.
US officials say the country will need 300 million facemaks for healthcare workers — but there is a global shortage
As US healthcare professionals are gearing up for an influx of patients with coronavirus, one growing concern is the shortage of these necessary facemasks worldwide.
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a press conference on Tuesday that the US will need an estimated 300 million N95 respirators for healthcare workers as the country’s prevalence of the virus increases.
But the US currently only has 30 million masks.
As panic about the virus drives healthy people to stock up on N95 respirators and surgical masks, health officials are reiterating to the public that there is no reason for healthy people to purchase these kinds of facemasks unless they will be in direct contact with the virus.