Do you really need to wear a surgical facemask? CDC says not likely, but Texans are buying anyway


SAN ANTONIO (Nexstar) — Surgical masks are flying off the shelves in Central Texas.

The wave of sales comes as passengers being quarantined for the Wuhan Coronavirus have been brought by State Department-chartered flights from Asia to military installations in Texas and California.

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland received a new batch of American passengers cleared to re-enter the United States, but will stay isolated for two weeks before being released.

According to a joint statement from the State Department and Health and Human Services, 14 people who tested positive for the coronavirus, officially dubbed COVID-19, were flown stateside, but neither the State Department nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed which installation received those 14 people or where they were headed.

According to the release, “passengers that developed symptoms in flight and those with positive test results were isolated on the flight and did not remain in San Antonio. They were transported to an appropriate location out of state for continued isolation and care.”

Health officials said 145 people who arrived to Lackland Air Force Base would remain there under quarantine, bringing the total number of people quarantined in San Antonio to 235.

“None of the passengers currently on the installation have tested positive for COVID-19,” officials stated.

Despite reassurance from the feds, people in Central Texas have some left medical supply companies sold out of their surgical masks.

“We have been getting a lot of calls for the masks,” Steve Parker, manager at Primo Medical Supplies in San Antonio, said. His store is 12 miles north of Lackland Air Force Base.

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)

“In a day, we get about 50 calls for the facemasks,” he said.

Just as fast as he can get restocked, he sells out.

“Last week we got about 1,200 boxes of these and then we ran out of them in a week’s time,” Parker explained.

Parker wore a surgical mask in his office on Monday as a preventive measure, he said. On the CDC website, the agency states it “does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.”

Facemasks are “crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility),” the CDC website stated, but anyone else should “only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it.”

“A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms,” the CDC said. “This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected.”

Nonetheless, a slow stream of consumers walked in and out of Parker’s store all day on Monday, leaving with bags and boxes of surgical masks.

Two other medical supply companies in the area also reported low stock numbers as they awaited manufacturers to fill back-orders.

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