The surgeon general wants Americans to stop buying face masks

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(CNN) — The United States’ top doctor has one simple request: Stop buying face masks.

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams’ message, posted to Twitter on Saturday, was a response to face mask shortages as people stocked up due to coronavirus concerns.

“Seriously people,” he began, and though it’s a tweet, you can almost hear the exasperation in his plea. “STOP BUYING MASKS!”

“They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” he continued.

Washing your hands, staying home when sick and other “everyday preventive actions” are the best protections, Adams said. He urged people to get a flu shot, as fewer flu patients means more resources to fight the coronavirus.

The tweet comes during what has become a mask boom. With coronavirus popping up in the United States, some have begun buying face masks as a form of protection, despite the likes of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Vice President Mike Pence saying they’re unnecessary.

And, like Adams points out, if these masks run out, they won’t be available to the medical professionals who are at the highest risk for disease transmission.

Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told CNN the rush to buy masks is a “psychological thing.”

“The coronavirus is coming, and we feel rather helpless,” he said Saturday. “By getting masks and wearing them, we move the locus of control somewhat to ourselves.”

Meanwhile, stores across the country have run out of masks. As for online shipments, many orders have been pushed back.

The CDC recommends the following to prevent the spread of any respiratory disease:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home from school or work when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

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