Last month I posted a video about medical masks being hoarded by healthy people were a bigger health threat than the coronavirus in the United States. A shortage of medical masks at hospitals could cause an outbreak among medical professionals and the general public. A few people told me that the medical mask shortage was just an Internet conspiracy theory.
Earlier this week a doctor and two ER staff members who identified a patient with the coronavirus at a Silicon Valley hospital are now under quarantine. A shortage of N95 masks left them exposed to the coronavirus while examining the patient. Yesterday the United States Surgeon General tweeted that healthy people must stop buying medical masks to avoid putting medical personnel at risk from a mask shortage. Medical mask hoarders are putting everyone at risk for an outbreak.
The patient at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View was the third known coronavirus case in Santa Clara County. According to the CDC, the coronavirus diagnosis for this patient is of “unknown origin” and quite possibly “community spread”.
What do those two terms mean?
- “Unknown origin” means that the patient didn’t travel from an infected area or exposed to another known patient with the coronavirus.
- “Community spread” means the source of the infection is unknown.
The most likely scenario is that the patient encountered someone who wasn’t aware that they had the coronavirus.
How could the coronavirus spread in the San Francisco Bay Area without direct contact with infected people from overseas?
The Bay Area has three international airports: San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. An international traveler passing through could unknowingly transmit the virus to other travelers and airport workers during the 14-day incubation period that they’re not aware of being sick. That indirect form of transmission is what makes the coronavirus scary. Those travelers and airport workers will go home with their 14-day incubation period. That new coronavirus cases are showing up on the West Coast first isn’t surprising.
The announcement that a doctor and two ER staff members were under quarantine because the hospital didn’t have enough N95 masks was disturbing. No doubt prompting the Surgeon General to tweet for healthy people to stop buying medical masks. Sick people need masks to prevent their germs from being airborne by a cough or sneeze. Medical staff need masks to protect themselves while working with multiple patients. A mask shortage at hospitals could lead to an outbreak among medical professionals and the general population.
Should you panic? Absolutely not.
Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, wash your hands frequently, and get a flu shot if you haven’t gotten one yet. If you get hung up about touching your face with unwashed hands, you could always wash your hands and then touch your face. Or wash your hands and your face. These common sense precautions can protect you from the coronavirus – and the regular flu.
While the coronavirus gets all the media, the regular flu has infected and killed more Americans than the coronavirus has done so far. President Trump reportedly shocked that 25,000 to 69,000 people die from the regular flu each year. So far 29 million people infected and 16,000 died from the regular flu. Unfortunately, the regular flu doesn’t generate the same sensational headlines and unreasonable panic as the coronavirus does.