Coronavirus fear sells out masks at medical supply stores

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KETTERING, Ohio (WDTN) – Dozens of Americans are now diagnosed with coronavirus. While there are no infections so far in Ohio, people are rushing to medical supply stores for masks.

“Two to three times a day we have somebody coming in the door and asking for the face masks and at least two to three phone calls as well,” said Les Donahue, co-owner at GetActive Home Medical and Mobility.

While 2 NEWS visited with Donahue at his store, a voicemail message came in to GetActive. It said, “Quick question. We’re looking for a face mask with N95 reading. Thank you.”

Donahue says the store has been out of masks for a month. They have several thousand ordered from a number of suppliers. 

“I’m hoping to get some in from one of them but all of them are coming in with the same type of answers,” said Donahue.

Donahue said he typically get a higher demand for masks this time of year because of the flu. He usually sells 200 to 300 masks this time of year. He estimated that number would have been in the thousands had he had the inventory.

Medline, one of the country’s biggest suppliers of medical supplies sent out a memo to its clients recently. It says the Chinese province where most of the manufacturing happens is located where the coronavirus originated. Several manufacturing factories have been shut down by the government. The letter says when production can start, the Chinese government is prioritizing the masks for domestic use or other high infection areas. 

There are also expected to be shortages in medical gowns, wound care supplies, and along with other items.

“Every time the virus seems to get a little bit worse, the timeline seems to be pushed back a little bit,” said Donahue. At this point, he’s uncertain when any masks will be available to order again.

The high demand for all masks comes as medical experts and Donahue say they work best to protect those already infected from spreading illness. Many masks are not fitted enough to protect against inhaling of airborne droplets believed to transmit coronavirus. If the public chooses to wear a mask, fitted masks featuring an N95 filter would be the most effective.

Governor Mike DeWine saying today the state stands ready to combat an outbreak. 

“We will communicate what we know, when we know it. That is our obligation,” DeWine said.

Medical experts say hygiene will be the biggest protector against the virus.

“Become OCD about washing the hands and not touching the face. I think that’s probably our best protection at this moment,” said Donahue. 

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