Americans still shouldn’t be buying facemasks to fight coronavirus, according to CDC

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Steve Parker, manager at Primo Medical Supplies in San Antonio, wears a surgical facemask in his office on Feb. 17, 2020. Some Central Texas stores are reporting a dip in supply amid Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend healthy people wear the facemasks. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Centers for Disease Control is asking for people to take care of their older family members and people with previous health risks as coronavirus cases slowly rise in the United States.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, held a conference call Monday to update the latest numbers of COVID-19 infections in the U.S.

And, again, the CDC is asking that people stop buying face masks.

“We do not think it’s the time for people to go out and get masks. Please fight your urge to buy a mask and save them for the people that really need them,” Messonnier said.

As of Monday, there are 110,000 cases in the world with over 500 cases in the United States, according to the CDC. More than half of the cases in the U.S. are in California and Washington. Messonnier added that 34 states, along with New York City and Washington D.C., are currently treating people that have tested positive for COVID-19.

Nineteen people have died from the virus in the United States — 18 in Washington state and one in California.

The CDC maintained similar recommendations from previous briefings which asked Americans to avoid contact with sick people and avoid crowds in poorly-ventilated areas. At the age of 60, the risk of contracting the virus increases with the highest risk to people older than 80 years old, according to the CDC.

Messonnier reiterated several times that it is important for older people to avoid potentially dangerous situations and to protect themselves by stocking up on food and materials in case they become infected.

However, the CDC is also asking most American people to avoid panic.

“In the United States, most communities are not having community transmission. This is a time to prepare, but not for people to clear out the shelves,” Messonnier said.

Interestingly, Messonnier said there’s a high chance most Americans will come in contact and potentially be infected with the disease either this year or next year.

The CDC reports that 78 state and public health labs currently have the capacity to test up to 75,000 total people for the virus. Different states will have different capacity for testing.

The CDC is learning more about the virus and using statistics from other countries to draw conclusions. According to Messonnier, only 2% of cases in the U.S. are in people younger than 19 years-old. No one under 30 years-old in South Korea and no one under 50 years old in Japan has died from the virus.

So far, no one in CDC’s workforce has tested positive for COVID-19.

The CDC isn’t recommending that cities should cancel every public event, but “individuals are going to have to make personal decisions” on what they chose to do during this time of uncertainty.

Messonnier said, when it comes to canceling public events, all kinds of factors could play into why it is canceled including the location of the event, the size of the event and where people are traveling from.

Latest on Covid-19 (coronavirus) in Texas

  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz placed himself in voluntary self-quarantine after he shook hands with a person who later tested positive for COVID-19 at the Conservative Political Action Conference. In a statement released Sunday evening, Cruz said he interacted with the person for less than a minute and is not experiencing any symptoms of the virus.
  • Approximately 90 Texans on the Grand Princess Cruise ship off the coast of California will be transported to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, according to a spokesperson for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. All American passengers will be tested for the COVID-19 virus and taken to military bases for a 14-day quarantine.
  • Despite the cancellation of SXSW 2020 on Friday amid concerns over COVID-19, this year’s unofficial SXSW events, as well as “alternative” SXSW events, appear to be gaining momentum. Members of the Austin and SXSW community have spent the days since the SXSW cancellation announcement trying to rally around the local workers and businesses who would be hurt most by the cancellation. According to a 2019 report, SXSW had an impact of more than $350 million on Austin’s economy.

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