As coronavirus cases continue to soar in and around New York, doctors, nurses and others on the front lines say their supplies of medical-grade N95 and surgical masks are rapidly dwindling, with the worst of the epidemic yet to come.
Hospitals in New York and other coronavirus hot spots “are running in short supply of N95 masks,” said Richard E. Peltier, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Hospitals have been conserving masks or reusing them to make them last.
“So we’re playing a game of roulette,” Mr. Peltier said.
N95 masks are in acute demand among medical providers because they provide a tight fit and help prevent a person from inhaling small, airborne infectious particles. Last week, some N95 masks that are primarily intended for use in industrial settings, such as construction, were temporarily approved for medical use by the F.D.A. Surgical masks fit more loosely, but prevent the wearer from spreading droplets when coughing or sneezing.
Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others are considering whether to recommend that people cover their faces in public, there is growing concern that people will start using medical masks when a scarf, kerchief or bandanna would be sufficient.