DENVER, Colo. – Workers use a lot of masks at Comfort Dental in downtown Denver.
“We order about 12 boxes a month and each box has 50 masks in it,” said Dr. Jashon Hughes.
Now, Hughes and his staff are experiencing a major shortage with this much needed medical supply, saying this deficit is linked to increased concerns over the novel coronavirus.
Following news of the coronavirus spreading, Hughes started seeing companies putting a limit on how many masks he can order.
“Usually I can order as many boxes as I wanted,” he said while looking at an online order form. “It says, ‘due to the coronavirus outbreak we are experiencing higher than normal demand globally for infection control products such as masks, goggles and face shields.’”
Now, other medical experts are speaking out on this shortage.
“I can understand why folks want to wear masks,” said Sheryl Zajdowicz, Ph.D. “However, it’s really a bit of a panic move.”
Zajdowicz is a biology professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and says most times wearing a mask won’t keep people protected.
“You may not have any benefit whatsoever,” she said. “Because you may be wearing it long term, getting it saturated and that could possibly make you more susceptible to contracted other things.”
The U.S. Surgeon General recently urged the public to stop buying masks and leave them for health workers, tweeting “they are not effective in preventing general public from catching coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
Zajdowicz has also noticed some people trying to make a profit and cash in on this concern with the coronavirus with hand sanitizers selling for several times more than its normal cost.
“It seems a bit extreme and just appalling to see that cost,” she said. “$60 for a typical bottle (for an right-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer).”
Zajdowicz says the best defense against the coronavirus is a good ol’ fashioned handwashing – scrubbing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, which is about the time it takes you to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
Back at the dentist's office, Hughes says the super high demand for masks is creating all kinds of challenges.
“Coronavirus isn’t the only thing hoping to protect from,” he said. “We’ve got the flu, colds, stuff like that.”
He added if the concerns continue to grow and supplies continue to shrink, they may have to take drastic measures to stay safe
“Long term if this thing blows up then, yeah, you could see offices not opening here and there if it did spread and get worse,” he said.