National survey shows coronavirus causing run on masks

Feb. 7, 2020

A national survey of pharmacists finds Americans purchasing surgical masks and other supplies faster than the stores can get them. Sixty-three percent of local pharmacists say their customers are buying surgical masks as a precaution, while a staggering 96 percent say they're selling them faster than they can restock. Nearly 40 percent say they can't get enough respirator masks. Many are reporting shortages of hand sanitizers, surface sanitizers, and gloves as well.

"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. Forty-two percent disagree, while 26 percent are unsure. Fifty-four percent of them say, however, that their patients are very worried.

"Patients are on edge and they're preparing," said Caswell. He pointed out that local pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers in most communities. Pharmacies in many states now administer flu shots and other vaccinations. They are very well-positioned to do the same for coronavirus and other new infectious diseases when vaccines are developed.

"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."

NCPA has the story.