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Face masks flying off shelves in Iowa amid Coronavirus fears

Health officials urge Americans to not buy face masks to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Face masks are near impossible to find both in stores and online, despite health officials telling people not to wear them to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

Something more concerning to officials though is the fact that soon, we may start seeing shortages of medications in America. 

90 percent of the active ingredients used by U.S. drug manufacturers come from China.

"If this continues over the next few weeks or months, we could start seeing shortages here in the United States and that's very concerning both as a policymaker here at the Capitol and as a pharmacist," Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, said. 

Forbes, who also works as a pharmacist in Urbandale, said he hasn't seen any shortages at his store because of the virus. 

He is having trouble stocking face masks though. 

"Pharmacies across the state of Iowa are having a very difficult time getting the masks in that would be required to protect against the Coronavirus," Forbes said. 

It's not just pharmacies dealing with the shortage. 

True Value Hardware in West Des Moines also ran out of masks. 

"Wednesday afternoon I finally ran out," True Value Hardware manager Todd Treese said. 

That's left those trying to find the masks for work frustrated. 

"I work in a line of construction and we really need these masks to do our job," said Dwayne Kelce, a construction worker. "It seems like every place we're going to get them they're selling out. Everybody's freaking out about the Coronavirus."

Menards in Marion, Iowa was also out of masks Thursday. 

You can see this sign sent into Local 5 by a viewer said suppliers are out of stock because of the Coronavirus. 

Credit: Scott Contreras
Menards out of respiratory masks in Marion, Iowa.

It seems stores in the United States aren't going to be able to restock the masks anytime soon. 

"We've reached out to about 10 distributers and the stories about all the same, 'Get ahold of us in May 2020'," Treese said. 

It seems air travel is one of the common places people are wearing masks. 

"It's a little frightening," said Jason Oliver, who flew to Des Moines Thursday with his family. "Certainly you want to know that others are trying to take precautions, but it reminds you that there's something out there."

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But the virus didn't have all travelers concerned.

"I hadn't really thought about it until you brought it up," said Jeremy Smith, who was flying out of the Des Moines International Airport Thursday. "I'm not too worried about it."

Again, health officials stressed don't go out and buy masks. 

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They aren't necessary to prevent the spread of the virus since the virus isn't prevalent in the U.S. 

Also, they said simple surgical masks aren't going to protect you from the virus.