Anyone looking to buy a facemask in Darien will most likely not be successful.

Most, if not all, of the businesses that usually sell them are completely sold out, as The Darien Times learned after making many phone calls on Thursday.

Much of this probably revolves around the fear of the coronavirus disease, a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The coronavirus was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, on Jan. 30.

According to the World Health Organization, as of Thursday, Feb. 27, there has been more than 82,000 reported cases in the world.

Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to date, there has been a total of 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States.

Sold out

People all over town have apparently been purchasing facemasks as a way to protect themselves from catching the coronavirus, which is thought to be spread by droplets or aerosols generated by sneezing and coughing.

Debi Hibben, owner of Grieb's Pharmacy, said all her wholesalers are sold out of facemasks indefinitely.

“They are completely out, with no release date,” she said.

By early in the afternoon on Thursday alone, at least a half dozen people had asked for them at the store, she added.

“We have been sold out for a month,” Hibben said. “The last time we ordered them was Jan. 13.”

Hibben said that to her knowledge, the store has never been sold out of facemasks before.

She said the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) scare in 2003 was the last time there was an increase request for facemasks at Grieb’s.

She added there has also been many more purchases than usual recently of Purell, Lysol, and Clorox wipes.

“People like to be prepared in this town,” she said.

Like Grieb’s, both CVS and Walgreens are also sold out of facemasks.

An employee at Walgreens said the store’s entire warehouse is sold out.

“We ran out a few weeks ago,” the employee said.

Pete McDonald, manager of Ring’s End in town, is also sold out.

“We ran out yesterday,” said McDonald on Thursday. “We are turning people away.”

“I’m not sure when we are next going to get them,” he added. “They are on allocation. We are not even taking an order for them.”

Prior to completely running out of stock, Ring’s End was rationing them out, limiting them to one box per customer. There are 20 facemasks in a box.

McDonald added that in the 35 years he has worked at Ring’s End, “we never experienced this before.”

He said an alternative to facemasks are respirators, “but they are expensive.”

David Knauf, director of health in Darien, is reassuring residents that there hasn’t been an outbreak in the U.S. at this time.

“Coronavirus is everywhere in the news, but the fact is that we have had only had limited cases across the U.S. thus far,” Knauf said. “We are watching all developments closely to assess whether special measures will need to be taken in the future.”

He added that the CDC only recommends facemasks be worn by those who are currently sick.

Additionally, Knauf said in order for a mask to be effective, it must be “fit tested,” which means it needs to be adjusted to the wearer.

For the most up-to-date information on the coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at CDC.gov, and the Connecticut State Department of Public Health, at portal.ct.gov/dph.

Ways to protect against the coronavirus

Source: Director of Health in Darien

Knauf said to take the same precautions against catching the coronavirus as catching the flu. This includes:

 Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Cough into your sleeve, not your hand.

 Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing.

 Stay home if you are sick.

 Keep a distance of approximately six feet from someone you suspect may be ill.

 Keep public surfaces disinfected and sanitized.