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Largest US surgical mask provider halts individual orders amid coronavirus ‘crisis’

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DALLAS - Texas-based surgical mask provider Prestige Ameritech is no longer accepting orders of its masks from individuals as it focuses on supplying its U.S. hospital clients.

“If you are looking to place a one-time high volume order of masks or respirators, we cannot help you,” a recording on Prestige Ameritech’s phone line said Thursday. “We are working hard to serve only U.S. hospital customers through the coronavirus crisis.”

Prestige Ameritech operates a 200,000-square-foot facility near Fort Worth and is the leading manufacturer of surgical masks in the U.S. The company has been overwhelmed with demand but is following through with orders placed before it closed them to individuals.

The coronavirus crisis is an “unprecedented potential severe health challenge globally,” Prestige Ameritech executive vice president and partner Mike Bowen told CBS News. The company had not ramped up production or staff numbers to respond to the increased demand as of Wednesday, citing uncertainty about the virus’ impact.

Medical professionals have cautioned that there’s no evidence that the typical surgical mask protects against catching an infection, although they’re useful in preventing infected individuals from spreading certain illnesses when worn.

“Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new U.S. coronavirus case was confirmed Wednesday in California that officials have said could be the first to have no known connection to travel abroad or another known case - a potential sign of community spread in the country.

Dallas County officials previously downplayed the risk coronavirus poses to the region, largely because it was concentrated in Asia until recently. They have maintained communication with federal, state and other county agencies to monitor the spread of the virus. The county recommends following guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control.

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