Coronavirus concerns drive face masks sales, but how well do they work?

Forward Pharmacy says N-95 face masks have heavier filters than the lightweight, over-the-ear...
Forward Pharmacy says N-95 face masks have heavier filters than the lightweight, over-the-ear masks.(NBC15)
Published: Feb. 5, 2020 at 10:28 PM CST
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Concerns over the coronavirus is driving up demand for face masks, as some local pharmacies have already sold out.

At Forward Pharmacy, N-95 face masks are no longer sold on the shelves. Pharmacist Tony Peterangelo said after multiple customers bought masks in bulk, he decided to move them behind the counter.

“They were willing to purchase as many as I was willing to sell, so I decided to keep some control over it,” he said.

But once the dozen or so masks run out, Peterangelo said he’ll have to wait indefinitely until a new shipment arrives. He said his wholesale retailer is sold out.

NBC15 reached out to 8 different area pharmacies and learned many are sold out or having a hard time restocking.

However, there are mixed messages when it comes to the efficacy of masks.

Dr. Nasia Safdar, the medical director of infection control at UW Health, said, "It is recommended that people do that [wear a mask]. There's not a downside to it."

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), masks are not currently necessary for the general public. The CDC writes, “While limited person-to-person spread among close contacts has been detected, this virus is not currently spreading in the community in the United States.”

Peterangelo added that not all masks are created equal. He said that N-95 masks have heavier filters than lightweight, over-the-ear masks.

Health officials are taking other precautionary measures while they say risk remains low for the public and Wisconsin’s first coronavirus patient is isolated at home. They say they are reaching out to those who made contact with the patient.