Medical masks and hand sanitizer in short supply as fear of virus grows

  • Thomas Wilmot, co-owner and pharmacist at Granite State Pharmacy in McKee Square, looks down where the masks were usually kept on the shelves of the store on Tuesday. Wilmot doesn’t expect any shipments of masks or sanitizer anytime soon. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • The empty spot on the shelves of Granite State Pharmacy in Concord where medical masks once were on Tuesday.

  • Thomas Wilmot, co-owner and pharmacist at Granite State Pharmacy in McKee Square, works at his station on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Thomas Wilmot, co-owner and pharmacist at Granite State Pharmacy in McKee Square, works at his station Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Published: 3/3/2020 4:36:18 PM

Granite State Pharmacy has been out of medical masks and hand sanitizer for weeks, just like everyone else.

“We’ve been told by our supplier there’ll be intermittent supplies,” pharmacist Tom Wilmot said. “As of right now, we can’t get any more.”

The pharmacy on Clinton Street in Concord is hardly alone. Fear of the spreading coronavirus has led to a global run on sales of face masks despite evidence that most people who aren’t sick don’t need to wear them.

Wilmot echoed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. surgeon general Jerome Adams, which have said the masks are unnecessary for healthy individuals.

“If you’ve got symptoms, you should be wearing a mask,” Wilmot said. “If you are trying to keep from getting sick, it isn’t effective and not a good use of resources.”

The mass-sell out of masks to healthy individuals is problematic for those who should be wearing them, like those who are ill or medical workers in proximity to someone with the virus.

“People who are trying to prevent sickness with the masks are wasting the mask,” Wilmot said. “It’s people who are already sick that should wear a mask to keep the contamination to themselves. Maybe we wouldn’t need as many masks if people would follow that idea.”

As far as hand sanitizer, the CDC recommends people wash their hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially at certain times of the day, like after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60 % is a suitable alternative.

Wilmot offered the same advice to any of his customers looking for sanitizer: Keep washing your hands, he said.

“Drown a germ, as the poster says,” Wilmot said.

He offered a little pharmaceutical information to anyone who insists on obtaining hand-sanitizer 

The alcohol that makes sanitizer effective in killing germs is essential a gel-compound of rubbing alcohol. While rubbing alcohol isn’t quite as pleasant to use as gel, it will be just as effective to kill germs on the skin, Wilmot said.

What’s in hand sanitizer is a gel compound of what’s in rubbing alcohol. If your trying to kills germs on your skin that should be as effective as using hand sanitizers people wanted the same effect, they could use rubbing alcohol to kill germs.

More than masks and germ-killing gel, people are coming into the pharmacy with lots of questions, Wilmot said. They are afraid and concerned about the spread of the virus and what it means for them and their families.  

“My advice to my family and to everyone else is that coronavirus probably isn't any more dangerous than many diseases that are already here,” Wilmot said. “It's just scary because it's new.”

He said a lot needs to be learned about the virus because many factors are unknown, like how many people worldwide have been exposed.

“They may find out that there are millions and millions of people that have already had the disease, almost without symptoms and it passed and their immune system dealt with it and they never even got sick enough to go to the doctor,” he said. “We don't know that.”

Conversely, the number of exposed may be relatively small compared to those who became seriously ill or died, which would indicate a more serious health threat.

Wilmot figured the COVID-19 virus will fall along the same lines as the flu, which is especially dangerous and potentially fatal to a tiny percentage of those who contract it, like the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Here are the CDC recommendations for the public regarding the COVID-19 virus: 

■Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

■Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

■Stay home 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.

■CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

■Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

■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 not readily available, 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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