California will be providing millions of N95 face masks to its healthcare workers out of an emergency reserve as the coronavirus outbreak puts a strain on supplies nationwide, officials announced Tuesday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s health agency got approval from the CDC to get a supply of N95 masks from its emergency reserves of 21 million masks.
“The state is mobilizing every level of government to prepare for and respond to spread of virus,” California Department of Public Health officials said in a news release.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have for weeks been cautioning community members against rushing to buy face masks, which officials say won’t help with preventing the spread of the virus and will only make it harder for health care professionals to get the resources they need.
The new supply will relieve pressure on masks for health care providers caring for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, the department said.
“The California Department of Public Health is taking steps to protect health care professionals on the frontlines of the fight against novel coronavirus,” state officials said in the news release.
As countries reported more deaths and cases, the fear of the coronavirus spreading led to a global run on sales of face masks, even as medical experts advised people who are not sick not to wear them. Many businesses reported selling out of masks, and others are limiting how many a customer can buy, the Associated Press reported.
“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams, said in a tweet. “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!”
N95 masks are thicker than regular surgical masks and can block out much smaller particles, which is why health care workers are being instructed to use them to protect themselves instead.
Since people are more likely to contract coronavirus by touching a contaminated surface than through air transmission, health officials have been advising people to wash their hands regularly with soap and water, and avoid touching their face with unwashed hands.
There have been 43 confirmed cases of coronavirus in California, including 24 among people who arrived on U.S. chartered flights from abroad.
Four of the state’s cases involved people who hadn’t traveled abroad and were believed to be incidents of community transmission.
Thousands are being monitored for the virus across the state after arriving from different countries.
“California is working hard to ensure our health care system is in the strongest possible position to respond to this evolving situation,” Gov. Newsom said.