Medical professionals say a surgical mask will not keep a person from catching coronavirus

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The U.S. Surgeon General wants people to stop buying surgical masks.

He tweeted “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

News10 spoke with the Dean of the Department of Nursing at Maria College, Dr. Laurie Carbo-Porter, about what surgical masks are really intended for.

“Most of the time, when you see a person out in public wearing a mask, it’s really just a face shield, and is only meant to filter large particles,” Dr. Carbo-Porter said.

Those large particles are the kind that come from fluids released from a cough or sneeze, common symptoms of a respiratory illness.

Surgical masks are primarily worn in a public, community setting to keep the person wearing it from passing illness to someone else, not the other way around, according to Dr. Carbo-Porter.

“It’s not going to prevent somebody from actually receiving those particles and then getting the illness,” Dr. Carbo-Porter said.

With the novel coronavirus making its way to multiple states, including New York, Dr. Carbo-Porter says conservation is important.

“The US has a large stockpile of masks, but we need even more,” Dr. Carbo-Porter said, “which is why it’s important that people in the public in general are not hoarding and buying masks. People who need them are people in hospitals and healthcare workers that are working in close proximity with patients.”

The New York coronavirus patient is in New York City, but the sample was tested in Albany at the Wadsworth Center within the Department of Health.

Dr. Carbo-Porter says the lab has precautions in place to make sure the virus stays very contained and does not spread beyond the lab. She says, if anything, the lab is an asset to the Capital Region.

“We, in Albany, have the ability to do the testing for the virus. We have a very well-staffed and high-functioning lab here, so we are well equipped to do that,” Dr. Carbo-Porter said.

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