A letter in your newspaper Friday urged the public to wear face masks to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus, with the writer (Tracy Floyd) saying she found it “shocking” that she was one of only three people during a recent shopping trip using one.

This advice might be reasonable if medical experts were in accord. However, the World Health Organization advises people to wear a mask only if they are displaying symptoms of coronavirus or “taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.”

Of much more importance, however, is the “dire shortage” of masks and other medical supplies in hospitals nationwide cited in a front-page story in the March 20 edition of The New York Times, which recently prompted U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams to urge that the public “stop buying masks!”

Similarly, Gov. Mills has asked the federal government to speed the release of its stocks of masks and other personal protective equipment, saying: “At present, the demand from providers and first responders in our state will soon outstrip our available supply.”

To limit the spread of the virus, the public is far better served by authoritative medical advice: strictly limit public contact, observe social distancing and practice recommended hygiene techniques scrupulously. We should not seek to deplete supplies vitally needed by front-line  personnel.

Ellen D. Murphy

Portland

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