Local stores see rush to buy face masks and respirators


At Beechwold Hardware, N95 respirators are flying off the shelves. “We got some in this morning and by 10 o’clock …they were all gone,” said cashier Joy Rice. “We have another shipment coming in tomorrow. We’re finding more sources for them but they do go very quickly.”

The rush to buy face masks and respirators intensified after U.S. health officials said this week that Americans should prepare for the possibility that a coronavirus outbreak could lead to a significant disruption in their daily lives.

The Food and Drug Administration says the N95 respirator is “designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.”

The N95 designation implies the respirator blocks out at least 95 percent of the smallest particles.

“Our warehouses are running out of them,” said Mark Roff, manager at the Schreiner ACE Hardware on North High St. “We have to back stock reserve them.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said this week the U.S. has a stockpile of 30 million N95 masks but estimates the country will need ten times that for a coronavirus outbreak.

Dr. Andrew Thomas, Chief Clinical Officer at OSU Wexner Medical Center says the facility is well stocked. “We’re being smart about how we allocate and use those masks and how we distribute them to make sure that we’re conserving our inventory as smartly as possible so that if there was a significant outbreak locally we would have the inventory that we need,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the evidence suggests that to become infected with COVID-19, there needs to be prolonged exposure within six feet of someone who is sick.

“So if you were sitting on a plane and the person next to you or one row in front of or behind you were ill, you would be at risk,” Thomas said. “But potentially even on the same plan – if you’re in the first row and they’re in the last row you might not be substantially at risk.”

And Joy Rice says travel is one of the reasons customers are buying the masks. “I’m getting the sense that people are just wanting to make sure that they’re prepared if they need them, you know its not a frantic thing,” Rice said. “I’ve heard several people when they picked them up, I’m flying. I want to make sure I have these on the plane because of the enclosed circumstances they feel like the germs are flowing more freely.”

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