Why a face mask isn't your best defense against coronavirus

Friday, February 28, 2020
Will wearing a mask guard against coronavirus?
The panic surrounding COVID-19 is driving up demand for face masks while the supply plummets for those who really need them.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The latest reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has many reaching for protective face masks in hopes to block the coronavirus. However, the panic is driving up demand while the supply plummets for those who really need them.

"I've had people concerned, worried in fear actually not knowing what to do," said Evelyn Murray of Briggs Hardware.

Briggs Hardware in downtown Raleigh is one of the few local stores with a fresh shipment.

"I was able to successfully purchase some. Have them shipped overnight," Murray said. "It's my hope today that people come in and get the mask just take a deep breath and relax and know everything else is going to be OK."

RELATED: Everything Americans need to know about coronavirus

But not all masks are created equal. Experts warn that the surgical masks that everyone seems to be turning to won't protect you.

"I think people see a mask and they see an illusion of protection that if they put the mask on," Dr. David Eisenman of UCLA said.

READ MORE: Wake schools following guidelines for coronavirus threat

The surgical masks -- the ones without the valve are recommended for people who are already sick -- designed to prevent a person from spreading germs through sneezing and coughing.

Then there's the N-95. Experts only recommend those for healthcare workers in constant contact with sick patients.

READ MORE: 15 flu deaths reported in North Carolina last week raises season's death toll to 115

"Anyone who does not have a respiratory illness, meaning a cough or sneezing, should not be wearing any type of mask whether it's a surgical mask or a respirator," Eisenman said.

That warning hasn't stopped people from swarming the stores in mask mania. Several big box stores reported shortages while Amazon saw prices topping $50 for a single mask.

Believe it or not, experts said that by wearing a mask, you could be putting yourself even more at risk.

"People do not use their masks correctly," Eisenman said. "They play with it. They wear it too long. They rub their nose underneath it.