A number of Utah County company locations, including Walmart, Walgreens and CVS, are experiencing shortages of medical supplies and masks in light of COVID-19 reports from around the world.
According to recent reports from the World Health Organization published on Feb. 26, over 81,000 cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide. While over 78,000 of those cases have been reported within China, almost 3,000 cases have been confirmed within 37 other countries.
As of Feb. 26, only 53 of the over 81,000 confirmed cases were reported within the United States. Since then, however, a number of new cases have been confirmed throughout the U.S. and six deaths have been reported as of Monday, according to the Associated Press.
As more cases are identified, stores are experiencing supply shortages for masks, medicine, bottled water and toilet paper.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also warning residents of shortages of at least one drug. According to the agency, a drugmaker reported a shortage for an undisclosed drug as it can’t access enough raw components that are sourced from China.
In a statement released Friday, a spokesperson for CVS said the company’s Health Emergency Response and Resiliency and Infectious Disease Response teams are monitoring COVID-19-related events across the globe.
The company said it is working with partners to maintain business unit preparation and continuity to focus on meeting the needs of consumers.
Walmart’s Executive Vice President Donna Morris and Chief Medical Officer Tom Van Gilder sent a statement to Walmart associates across the U.S., announcing the founding of the company’s Emergency Operations Center task force and outlining important information for it’s employees to understand, including what COVID-19 is, how it is expected to spread, and how they can limit the spread.
“We’ll address the needs of each store, club and support center in each of our markets, and adjust business operations and travel as needed,” the statement said. “Your safety is our priority.”
While there are no signs of water or toilet paper shortages, officials are concerned about a potential shortage of masks and medicine.
Face masks are also a concern amongst officials.
With the exponential increase of face-mask sales nationwide, officials are concerned that face mask shortages will affect health care workers. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams posted a statement to Twitter on Saturday urging people to stop buying masks. When face masks are no longer available for the general public, they are also no longer available for hospitals, he said.
The Center for Disease Control does not recommend the general public uses disposable face masks and added that it is most beneficial for individuals who are sick to avoid spreading to others. The CDC also states face masks are beneficial for health workers and caregivers who are taking care of patients.
The FDA also reported that it expects “potential disruptions to supply or shortage of critical medical products in the U.S.” In the U.S., 90% of core components found in antibiotics such as amoxicillin, doxycycline and penicillin are sourced in China, according to the FDA.
“If you are not in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or if you have not travelled from one of those areas or have not been in close contact with someone who has and is feeling unwell, your chances of getting it are currently low,” the World Health Organization said in the report. “However, it’s understandable that you may feel stressed and anxious about the situation.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, during the 2019-2020 flu season in the U.S., 32-45 million people have reported experiencing flu illnesses, with about 560,000 hospitalizations and 46,000 deaths. These numbers are estimated from Oct. 1, 2019 to Feb. 22, 2020.
For viral infections including the common cold, flu and coronavirus, the most effective way to limit the spread of illness is regular hand-washing with warm water and soap, according to the FDA and CDC. The agencies also warn people to avoid touching their noses and mouths.