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Pharmacy shelves empty as health officials urge 'home preparedness' to protect against coronavirus

Several area pharmacies are facing a shortage of face masks, hand sanitizer and surgical gloves as people stock up in wake of coronavirus.

TOWSON, Md. — A sampling of suburban pharmacy and grocery stores in Maryland on Monday found a low supply of surgical masks, hand sanitizer and even rubber gloves.

Maryland’s Deputy Secretary of Health Fran Phillips released an Audio Public Service Announcement urging home preparedness.

"This is a good time to begin thinking about home preparedness, just as we might prepare for inclement weather," Phillips said. She did not elaborate on what items residents should have at the ready.

But the US Surgeon General is imploring Americans to cross surgical masks off their lists.

RELATED: Maryland Department of Health encourages early preparedness against coronavirus

“Seriously People, Stop Buying masks," Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted over the weekend. "They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!" 

D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt also said face masks for the general public are of little help.

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However, Nesbitt urged residents to prepare for illness at home.

"We want the public to understand that you need to have an adequate supply of the medications you take on a day to day basis," Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt recommended having plenty of common over the counter cold and flu medications especially in households with kids.

"For home quarantine and home isolation, but also to prepare for simply having an illness," Nesbitt answered when asked about the possibility of people being asked to isolate themselves.

As of Monday afternoon, no confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in Maryland, D.C. or Virginia, according to the latest statements from health officials in the region.

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