Masks fly off the shelves in southern Oregon amid novel coronavirus fears

The majority of stores around Medford were sold out of N95 masks by the morning hours of Friday.

Posted: Feb 28, 2020 5:11 PM
Updated: Mar 2, 2020 10:47 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. — With the prospect of a possible novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the U.S. on the horizon, many people are making their own preparations. In southern Oregon, that translated into a run on N95 respirator masks this week — with many stores sold out by Friday.

"The past couple of days we've run out of masks," said Tyler Quitt from Black Bird Shopping Center in Medford.

Quitt says that he's noticed a spike in face mask sales over the past month. "Yesterday within the first hour of us being open we ran out the of masks that we had available," he said.

"We had a good supply. We've just been . . . every other customer wants masks," said Ron Williams. He's a sales clerk at Drake's Paint and Supply. Williams says the store is getting 20 calls a day from people looking for masks.

There were still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oregon as of Friday — with the closest known case that of a woman currently being treated at a hospital in Sacramento, California. The Oregon Health Authority says that it has tested two people for the virus, and both tests were negative. 76 people are still being monitored, and two more cases are "under investigation."

NewsWatch 12 contacted more than a dozen stores in the Rogue Valley on Friday. Only one store, Glidden Professional Paint Center in Medford, had enough N95 masks remaining to get through the day. Most stores hope to get a new shipment in by the end of April.  

Both Asante Rogue Regional and Providence Medford Medical Center said that they still had masks in supply and were not experiencing a shortage.

The N95 mask has historically been the armor of choice for many southern Oregonians during wildfire season as well. The mask is designed to filter out airborne particulate matter of a certain size, like some of the ash and dust carried by heavy smoke from fires. Masks with this designation are supposed to block "at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles" if properly fitted, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not generally recommend facemasks and respirators for use in home or community settings," the FDA said. "However, they may be appropriate for persons at increased risk of severe illness from influenza or other respiratory diseases."

Despite the run on respirators, health authorities at both the state and national level have not issued any explicit recommendations to use them in an effort to avoid getting the virus. Much like the influenza virus, authorities like OHA have continued to advise fairly basic hygiene measures as the best line of defense — washing hands, covering coughs or sneezes, and disinfecting surfaces.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 195179

Reported Deaths: 2585
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah38618593
Washington25757233
Marion22140307
Clackamas17633214
Lane13089149
Jackson10938139
Deschutes912274
Umatilla823684
Linn498168
Klamath448664
Yamhill448376
Polk377953
Malheur352763
Josephine336471
Douglas329171
Benton311720
Jefferson221537
Coos207735
Columbia175729
Union145123
Lincoln138521
Wasco138128
Hood River119631
Crook113122
Morrow111116
Clatsop9948
Baker95914
Tillamook6523
Curry64610
Grant5226
Lake4557
Harney3488
Wallowa1855
Gilliam631
Sherman581
Wheeler321
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3768087

Reported Deaths: 62656
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123727324101
Riverside2997934594
San Bernardino2971654721
San Diego2789903737
Orange2711945030
Santa Clara1190062096
Kern1092721376
Sacramento1049581691
Fresno1019171688
Alameda880271667
Ventura810331016
San Joaquin733101394
Contra Costa68942806
Stanislaus622491061
Tulare49830840
Monterey43662383
San Mateo42041570
San Francisco36771545
Santa Barbara34378456
Solano32974252
Merced31919461
Sonoma30057321
Imperial28485728
Kings23013246
Placer22679292
San Luis Obispo21331260
Madera16474242
Santa Cruz16264207
Marin14072227
Yolo13922210
Shasta12175226
Butte12076192
El Dorado10193113
Napa988382
Sutter9441113
Yuba628547
San Benito606863
Lassen570624
Tehama559063
Nevada475175
Tuolumne413967
Mendocino410849
Humboldt407242
Amador366547
Lake348343
Glenn239825
Siskiyou225525
Colusa223616
Calaveras213654
Inyo142838
Del Norte13988
Mono12844
Plumas7186
Modoc5014
Mariposa4507
Trinity4025
Sierra1120
Alpine880
Unassigned450
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