With cases of the new coronavirus picking up worldwide, the Centers for Disease Control are urging Americans to get prepared for the virus to spread at home. And while it may seem like a good idea to stock up on surgical-style face masks — much like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson did for their recent flights — people who buy them but don’t necessarily need them limit the supply for medical professionals who do.
On Tuesday, both Hudson and Paltrow posted about their new face masks. Hudson first shared a picture of herself on a flight wearing a medical face mask, with the caption, “Travel. 2020.” A few hours later, Paltrow, donning a more upscale Airinum mask (which is currently sold out on Amazon and on the brand’s website), said she’s “En route to Paris” and joked about her 2011 movie Contagion coming true.
“Paranoid? Prudent? Panicked? Placid? Pandemic? Propaganda? Paltrow’s just going to go ahead and sleep with this thing on the plane,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’ve already been in this movie. Stay safe. Don’t shake hands. Wash hands frequently.”
On Hudson’s post, she was quickly called out by commenters who said that the mask is not necessary, which led her to write on Paltrow’s post: “At least you have the right mask!!! 🙄”
But in both cases, the face masks will not necessarily keep a healthy person from getting the new coronavirus, officially termed COVID-19.
“Wearing a mask when you’re not sick has not been proven to help protect you with this kind of illness. It’s not something that I would do at this point unless you’re in an unusual situation where you’re around someone that you know is sick, but I wouldn’t recommend it,” Dr. Angela Hewlett, the medical director of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, told PEOPLE in January.
The CDC echoed that advice in a press briefing a few days later, saying that they do not recommend face masks for the general public.
“While it is cold and flu season, we don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks in the general public to prevent respiratory illness, and we certainly are not recommending that at this time for this new virus,” said Dr. Nancy Messonier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.
The best prevention method, Hewlett and Messonier said, is basic hygiene.
“Our guidance is that at this time of year, the best things you can do are the things that we generally recommend at this time of year to prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” Messonier said. “Wash your hands, cover your cough, take care of yourself.”
Plus, when healthy people buy up face masks they take them away from medical professionals who do need them. There is currently a worldwide shortage of face masks, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that the U.S. has just 30 million stockpiled, and need ten times that — 300 million — to protect heath care workers.