Vernon medical supplies stores say masks and hand sanitizers have been sold out for nearly a month amid growing concerns surrounding COVID-19. (File photo)

Masks sold out in Vernon amid growing COVID-19 concerns

Medical supply stores say masks, hand sanitizer flew off the shelves; suppliers can’t keep up with demand

Medical suppliers in Vernon are struggling to keep masks and sanitation products on the shelves amid growing coronavirus concerns.

Several stores said masks were sold out in February and suppliers are struggling to keep up with the demand.

Surge Med’s customer service administrator Tracy Dufresne said customers in Vernon are signing up for a waitlist for when the store eventually replenishes its supply.

Customer service representative Britni Horncastle, with Vernon’s Southward Medical Supply, said their store has been sold out of masks and hand sanitizer for nearly one month.

“There is so much fearmongering going on in the news,” she said. “(Coronavirus) can be a scary thing, but so is the regular flu.”

Horncastle said most of her clientele seeking masks are individuals with a pre-existing condition or those about to embark on travels.

“(Masks) are better than nothing,” she said. “But it’s like any cold, you can get it anywhere.”

Dufresne echoed the sentiments and said Surge Med hasn’t seen the demand for masks and hand sanitizers this high before.

“When H1N1 was happening, there was a bit of a kerfuffle,” she said. “But this one is a little bigger. You’re hearing more about it and reading more about it.”

There are “no masks to be had” at Nightingale Medical Supplies either, customer service representative Myra Bird said Friday, March 6.

“Our suppliers are out,” she said. “We’re trying to stock up because we need them in our area — masks have been out for a long time.”

Bird said she’s never seen anything like this before.

“It’s an epidemic, let me tell you,” she said. “Masks have been a big issue right from the get-go as soon as this all broke out.”

She said she believes the fear is stemming from the fact there is no known vaccination for the novel coronavirus, which is now referred to as COVID-19.

READ MORE: Hand-washing key to halting coronavirus, but some B.C. hospitals not meeting hygiene goals

“Our nurses don’t seem to be so concerned about the virus,” Bird said. “Some nurses feel it’s been blown way out of proportion.”

Globally, COVID-19 has killed 3.4 per cent of reported patients as of March 3, according to the World Health Organization.

The provincial government announced March 6 that it is activating a pandemic plan to deal with novel coronavirus.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is ready to use emergency powers to protect the population, health workers and the health system’s capacity to help patients with other problems.

Dix says the B.C. government is also preparing for how it will function if large numbers of public employees get sick.

The plan is to be ready to operate under an outbreak that lasts up to four months.

Premier John Horgan said a committee of deputy ministers will oversee B.C.’s COVID-19 response, and the province now has four labs that can test for the virus.

There are 62 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada as of March 8, with 27 cases confirmed in British Columbia — one of which is believed to have been contracted through community contact.

To protect patrons and employees alike, coffee giants Starbucks and Tim Hortons have temporarily stopped accepting reusable cups amid the growing COVID-19 concerns. Schools in the North Okanagan have also postponed spring break travel plans to Europe to protect its students.

— with Black Press files

READ MORE: Okanagan Starbucks stop using reusable cups amid coronavirus concerns

READ MORE: Coronavirus fears postpone North Okanagan high school trip to Europe


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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