Coronavirus: Getting Harder to Find Hand Sanitizer, Masks in NJ
Personal face masks and hand sanitizer are hot commodities across New Jersey as residents have stocked up amid a peak flu season and concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“We are working with our suppliers to meet customer demand for hand sanitizers and masks. This demand may cause temporary shortages of certain products at some store locations in the region," according to Joe Goode, a spokesman for CVS Health.
That's even though the CDC doesn't recommend masks for most people. It advises rigorous hand-washing and other best practices to avoid germs, but only suggests hand sanitizer when soap and water aren't available.
Goode added the pharmacy and wellness chain will re-supply those stores as quickly as possible, and said the company was “not experiencing any significant shortage of disinfectant wipes and sprays at this time.”
The demand for personal protective masks and gel or liquid sanitizer was similarly seen at independent pharmacies in Mercer, Middlesex, and Union Counties.
Jay Patel, pharmacy manager at The Robbins Pharmacy in Ewing, said his business has seen "an abundance" of customers seeking both face masks and hand sanitizer. Patel said other items selling briskly, like cold medication, fever reducers and tissues, are more expected in flu season.
For about a month, it's been "impossible" to get new supply of face masks and hand sanitizer, according to pharmacist and owner Chris Socha of Texas Road Pharmacy in Monroe.
It's a similar story at Tiffany Natural Pharmacy in Westfield, where a pharmacist said of personal face masks, they “ran out very quickly and haven’t been able to restock since," adding the problem is he doesn’t want to pass along the current outrageous pricing to customers.
The CDC "does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings," according to its website. According to government health officials, the spread of respiratory viruses from person-to-person happens among close contact or "within 6 feet."
Instead of wearing respirators or masks in public, the CDC recommends everyday preventive actions, "such as avoiding people who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes or nose, and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue." People who are sick should stay home and not go into crowded public places or visit people in hospitals.
Patel said he also has gotten a couple of inquiries from patients wondering if they can get a 90-day prescription supply, over the typical 30-day supply, amid concerns for the global impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Several customers at Tiffany Natural also have asked about boosting their typical prescription supplies, too.
Patel said there are insurance restrictions on refills, though customers do have the option to pay out of pocket for the difference.
When asked about the demand for such products as hand sanitizer, a representative for Target stores said the chain had "nothing to share at this time."
As of Monday, March 2, there are no known cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in New Jersey. A patient treated at a Monmouth County hospital and put in isolation in late February tested negative for the disease, as did other patients tested weeks earlier.
By contrast, the state has reported two pediatric deaths from influenza since October, amid a nationwide count of 125 pediatric flu deaths so far this season, a record high since 2009, according to the CDC.
Between 4 to 6% of all weekly deaths this season have been attributed to the flu or pneumonia.