LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) –While health officials across WAVE Country are meeting to learn what the coronavirus can do and how it can spread, locals are preparing for the potential outbreak, too.
Dozens of people have been stopping at different locations of Gould's Discount Medical the last several weeks looking for surgical masks.
Myra Mackem was one of more than a dozen Wednesday afternoon looking for the masks but had no luck.
“[I felt] a little bit of a stomach drop,” Mackem told WAVE 3 News after finding out Gould's didn’t have any in stock. “I don't trust what you get online.”
Rachel Loftis was looking, too. She said it's just about thinking ahead.
“With all the information that's come out recently about coronavirus and you know it's not at a panic level, but it would be good to be prepared for if and when it does happen,” Loftis said.
Stores like Gould's Discount Medical are seeing empty shelves and no chance of getting any more masks in stock for over a month.
UofL Epidemiologist Dr. Forest Arnold said the best thing people can do right now to prepare for any threat of the coronavirus in WAVE Country is to do the same thing you do for the flu: Cover your mouth when you cough and wash your hands.
“Would it do you any good to just wear a mask out and about? Probably not,” Arnold said. “In fact, you might want to save those masks and that's something we could educate people about is not wasting gloves and masks and those kind of things that we have now because we may need them later.”
Dr. Arnold said University Hospital is getting ready by designating specific rooms for potential patients, making sure the hospital has enough supplies for a potential outbreak and continuing to learn more about the virus.
“We would like to contribute to the national push to come up with a treatment for this in humans and a national push for a vaccine and so if we could contribute to that as a university, that would be special,” Arnold said.
There is no vaccine for the virus right now, and Arnold said even after one is created, it could take months to mass-produce it.