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Ohio Department of Health director says there is a shortage in medical masks

The equipment is essential for doctors and patients during a coronavirus outbreak

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health are urging doctors and patients across the state in order to preserve the supply of N-95 healthcare masks, which will be critical for healthcare professionals during the coronavirus pandemic.

ODH Director Amy Acton on Saturday said the state has a "great shortage" of the masks, which are essential in sealing a doctor's mouth so as to prevent to the spread of germs. She also alluded to a shortage in surgical masks, which are not as protective but are "useful" for patients to help stop them from spreading viruses.

Both Dr. Acton and the governor say elective surgeries will not only take these masks away from people who need them, but will also take up hospital beds and resources during a critical time. Acton said the state would be taking measures soon (perhaps another order) to redirect such resources to the front lines of the coronavirus fight.

"These shortages are real," she said. "We've got to take the healthcare situation very, very seriously."

3News' Rachel Polansky spoke with Northeast Ohio's top health institutions about their supply stock. When asked about masks, MetroHealth said they had about 100,000 N95 masks, but Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals would not get specific, only saying they have an "adequate supply." However, Cleveland Clinic did confirm they have saved masks that have either expired or are close to expiring, saying the expiration date is always "conservative" and that they would still be useful during a pandemic.

Acton told reporters to expect new measures regarding the masks on Monday. For now, she and DeWine are asking dentists and veterinarians to voluntarily give them up.

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