Despite face mask sales boost, Penn State Health not recommending for Coronavirus preparation

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – As the deadly Coronavirus continues to sweep the globe, local hardware stores are selling out of the N95 respirator mask.

ABC27 spoke with employees at two local Home Depot stores who confirmed they are all sold out of the N95 respirator mask.

An N95 respirator mask is a respiratory protective device designed to filter out airborne particles. According to the FDA, the N95 blocks 95% of very small (0.3 microns) test particles.

At Hornung’s Ace Hardware in Linglestown, their stock of masks is completely gone, and has been for about a week.

“My entire aisle is full, and then it’s just an empty hole right there,” said manager Ethan Fleig, pointing to a bare shelving unit that’s usually well-stocked. “All of a sudden the doors opened, everyone’s coming in ‘do you have masks, do you have masks, do you have masks’ and it just…out of nowhere, they’re all gone; 3M has completely denied all orders from us, even back orders. We’ve had to go to eBay as everyone else has had to, and we ordered 2,000 of them but they are extremely basic…that’s all that’s available.”

It isn’t just the midstate that is running to stock up, so are people across the country.

But Penn State Health told ABC27 Friday its doctors are not yet on board with the mad dash for masks. Spokewoman Barbara Schindo said in a statement:

“Penn State Health is not currently recommending the use of face masks for the general public, and will follow guidance from public health officials on face mask usage in the community if and when it becomes needed.”

The FDA says even if the N95 mask is fitted properly, it does not completely eliminate the threat of illness or death.

Those types of masks don’t have an airtight fit on someone’s face, allowing small contaminants to be breathed in through the gaps between the mask and a person’s cheek. Surgical masks like the N95 are best used on someone who is sick, not healthy, in an attempt to prevent an infected person from spreading body fluids or droplets of saliva during a cough or sneeze.

Home Depot spokesperson Margaret Smith told ABC27 that supply chain teams are working hard to resupply stores nationwide as demand for the masks continue to soar. 

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