There were full shopping carts and low supplies over the weekend and Monday as many Canadians rush to stores to stock up on food and supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“We’ve seen unprecedented demand across the industry, across all of North America for freeze-dried food. It’s sold out very quickly,” said Zenian Platten from Total Prepare, an emergency supply store.
But those are not the only items that have seen a spike in demand. N95 masks are still going even faster.
“At first it was just a few orders here and there,” she said.
“Then over about three or four days, we sold out. We were back-ordered, our supplier couldn’t get us more stock because they were sold out.”
And it’s not only happening as specialty stores like total prepare. Saanich’s London Drugs had a sign warning of the low stock back in January.
But it turns out, these masks aren’t really that effective, and officials say the risk in B.C. still remains low.
“The B.C. Centre for Disease Control website, if you visit that, they’re not recommending that you need to go to that extreme of a N95 mask,” said Tanya Patterson, Emergency Program Coordinator for the City of Victoria.
“Just a regular surgical mask, a face mask, if you are sick.”
That’s because the virus is spread through droplets rather than through the air. In fact, the lack of N95 masks is leaving some people more vulnerable.
“I realized that maybe this is something I should add to my kit just in case I find myself in that sort of a situation,” said Marina Mccaffrey.
“Sure enough when I started looking for it, and it was actually my doctor that said don’t bother cause they’re actually all sold out.”
Mccaffrey’s immune system is compromised, leaving her more at risk.
“When my immune system engages and starts trying to fight things, trying to heal me, when it’s done healing me, it tries to look for another target and my liver is where it goes,” Mccaffrey said.
While N95 masks aren’t for everyone, Patterson says being prepared is still important. People who are looking to build their own emergency kits should have a minimum seven days of water and food.
“The other thing is the first aid supplies, so you can have, of course, regular band-aids and cleaners and wipes, and you can have the surgical masks in there,” said Patterson.
She adds these kinds of kits are called a shelter-in-place kit and are similar to the ones you’d buy if you had the flu.