• Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar said the US needs at least 300 million face masks for health officials as the country braces the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
  • The HHS secretary said the US already has 30 million, but would need 270 million more.
  • The N95 respirators have proven to be not very effective in preventing infection, as they can’t fully filter out the airborne coronavirus particles.
  • The Trump administration sent a request to Congress for $2.5 billion be allocated to coronavirus relief — to develop a vaccine, protective equipment, and response measures.
  • With a Honeywell brand N95 mask costing at least $12.40 per mask, the entire allocated budget still would not be enough to afford the extra masks — let alone any other supplementary protective gear like hazmat suits and goggles.
  • More than 3,000 medical works in China — the epicenter of the outbreak — were infected by the virus.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A top US health official said the US needs at least 300 million face masks to fight the coronavirus, but the efficacy of the masks is questionable.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a Senate subcommittee meeting that the US currently has a stockpile of 30 million of the specific N95 masks, and it needs at least 270 million more for healthcare workers, as the country braces for a the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the prevalence of the disease could worsen in the country and that it “might be bad.”

The Trump administration sent a request to Congress for $2.5 billion be allocated to coronavirus relief — for vaccine development, protective equipment, and other response measures. The coronavirus budget would include a $1.8 billion boost to an existing $535 million from the Ebola response budget.

However, with a Honeywell brand N95 mask costing at least $12.40 per mask, the entire allocated budget still would not be enough to afford the extra masks — let alone any other supplementary protective gear like hazmat suits and goggles.

N95 respirators have also been proven to be less-than-effective in preventing the spread of the disease, as it can’t fully filter out airborne coronavirus particles. The face masks can prevent wearers from breathing in particles as small as 0.3 microns, but coronavirus particles measure between 0.05 and 0.2 microns in diameter, according to a recent article in The Lancet.

Trump is facing bipartisan backlash for his proposed coronavirus budget, with Democrats and some Republicans calling him out for the “inadequate” allocation. He defended his budget on Tuesday, tweeting “If the virus disappeared tomorrow, they would say we did a really poor, and even incompetent, job.”

In China — the epicenter for the disease — medical workers have been working under extreme conditions; roughly 3,000 healthcare workers have been infected and at least eight have died.

The coronavirus has infected 57 Americans as of Tuesday, with over 81,000 confirmed cases worldwide. Over 2,700 people have died globally from the disease. 

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