Many pharmacies across the Springfield area are suffering from shortages in flu masks due to the recent coronavirus outbreak in China and its spread to the United States.
According to a local pharmacist working for CVS Pharmacy, the national supplier of the masks is suffering a shortage because of the high demand.
Randy Bass, a pharmacist at Magers, says while people should keep basic hygiene up, the recent rush to purchase masks is mostly paranoia.
“It’s like anytime there’s a snowstorm forecasted to come to this area, everybody runs out and buys all the milk in the grocery stores,” Bass said. “So it’s all up to that point, people are a little bit scared so they try to keep ahead of it.”
Bass pointed out that the flu masks are a one-time use and offer little protection. Bass also confirmed if a case happened near Missouri State University, Magers has a plan with Mercy Hospital to combat it.
Magers is equipped with a sealed room which allows those with symptoms to be quarantined without affecting the building’s main source of airflow. Hazmat suits would be used until Mercy could send an ambulance for transport to a larger quarantine area.
The recent outbreak also led the University of California, Berkeley to say, in a now deleted tweet, that xenophobia is a natural reaction. When asked about this, Vice President for Research, Economic Development and International Programs Jim Baker said he did not agree with the post. He said he saw no recent upticks in xenophobia near the campus, given the large turnout at the recent Chinese New Year Festival as an example.
Baker said travel and interaction is a part of modern life, so trusting screening processes and reserving judgment on large groups is the route to take.
“Right now we live in a global society, some people travel all the time,” Baker said. “And so if you’re going to be getting phobias, you will have them all the time. I think what happens is you have to trust that the government screening process is in place, but when there’s a disease going around you can’t hold individuals or groups of individuals responsible for that.”
Baker said while the shortage of masks at Magers could be seen as paranoia, it is important for citizens to take precautions in these types of outbreaks.
Baker was part of the team who emailed students about the travel ban to China and confirmed that it will be updated in the future following more information on the situation.
“All university travel to China is cancelled at this time,” the email said. “This directive will be revisited in mid-February. The university is currently assessing the status of university-sponsored spring break travel to China and the region.”
Baker and Bass agreed the regular flu is just as likely to be caught, and that by maintaining basic hygiene you can decrease your chances of contracting the disease, which the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service encourages as well.
As of this time, the Center for Disease Control has declared 12 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, but none in Missouri. Magers is now asking people who come in if they have recently been to China.