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Austin stores are selling out of masks because of coronavirus scare

The Austin-Travis County Infection Preventionist says a medical mask will not make a difference from contracting coronavirus.

AUSTIN, Texas — People are flocking to buy face masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus, but the Austin-Travis County Infection Preventionist said a mask won't make a difference for people who are not sick. 

"It doesn't directly protect you from the coronavirus if you are not sick," said Bill Coll. "The mask should be worn by the person who would be having some type of discharge from their nose or mouth. Even with the mask on, there are still potential areas where they will be able to suck in the particles and air from around the person who is coughing and sneezing." 

According to the CDC, there are no cases of the coronavirus in Texas, but that hasn't stopped people from buying masks. 

"It again provides a false sense of security and it takes away the resources that are necessary for those providers that need to have the mask," said Coll.

Coll told KVUE the best practices are to use good hygiene and be aware of how close you are to others.

At Breed and Company Hardware store, A/C filters are usually the fastest-selling items, but not anymore. Diego Ochoa, the store manager, said since the outbreak of the coronavirus, medical masks have been flying off the shelves. 

"Buying boxes right off our truck actually, we bring them through the door and people go, 'Hey, we want some of those,'" said Ochoa.

Ochoa told KVUE that customers typically buy one or two at a time for household cleaning and painting jobs, but recently customers have been buying them in packages of 20 or 40. 

"It has been difficult because there has been a nationwide clampdown, limited supply of these masks with the growing demand but we are trying our best to accommodate everyone," explained Ochoa.

Ochoa said some customers are buying them as a precaution and others are sending them to their families in China, which is ground zero for the virus.

He added that, at one point, they had to limit each customer to six masks. Ochoa told KVUE they recently restocked and are trying to accommodate everyone with the heightened focus on the virus from locals.

WATCH: Do you need a mask to protect yourself from coronavirus?

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