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Coronavirus: How can you prepare?

Posted at 4:27 PM, Feb 26, 2020

BALTIMORE — The Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday that it appears inevitable that COVID-19 will spread in United States communities.

Officials said it’s no longer a matter of if, but when, causing a rush to the hardware store. People picking up large quantities of face masks in preparation.

"Calls are coming in all day long for the N95 face mask and we don't have it," said Ayd Hardware owner Vincent Ayd.

The store on York Road in Towson has several dust masks left, but the N95 model better protects against airborne hazards.

"My supplier in all their warehouses throughout the country is out of stock so who knows when these things will be available," said Ayd.

MORE: CDC: No longer a matter of if coronavirus will spread in US communities, but when

It took a WMAR-2 News crew four stops to find a store that had any. The Lowe's in Parkville had a handful one employee found in a box in storage. The rest of the shelves were empty.

"We're seeing a lot of people going to just purchase something. They want to do something and I can understand that," said Dr. David Marcozzi.

Marcozzi is the incident commander for the coronavirus response for the University of Maryland Medical System. He said there's no evidence that surgical masks actually stop the spread. The CDC recommends only people with coronavirus symptoms wear an N95 mask, not healthy people. The CDC also said that N95 are more effective in protecting against airborne hazards as long as you make sure they have a good seal to your face. Facial hair can make them less effective.

So if not a mask, what can you do to prepare? Marcozzi said it's a lot of the same steps that we take to prevent the flu, which has already killed 38 people in Maryland this season. The difference is there's no vaccination or therapy for coronavirus and there are concerns it will be more severe than the flu so these steps are more important now: Hand washing, keeping high-trafficked areas clean, covering your mouth with your elbow when you couch and stopping hand shakes.

Marcozzi said everyone should also be making contingency plans for if and when it hits the area.

"This is the time now to prepare ourselves for the next 30, 60 to 90 days for something that may different for our communities, business and individuals," said Marcozzi. "What steps should we start to have conversations about now that we can put in place in a month from now, two months from now to make sure our businesses stay open, our staff stay protected, their families feel secure enough that they can stay home if they get sick."

For employees, that means figuring out how to work from home. For schools, it's how to potentially close down and have students work from home. Marcozzi said even gatherings for sporting events may have to be canceled and everyone should be ready for that.