ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A quick search online for surgical masks shows they're in short supply, with delivery dates not slated until late February or mid-March. 

Brick and mortar retailers are rationing their short supply.

Suncoast Medical Supply in St. Pete has been out of masks for at least three weeks. Many customers wanted to buy hundreds of masks at a time to send to family or missionary groups in China. Others wanted to buy them to protect themselves while traveling. 

"We sold out in one day," Barry Baldwin, president of Suncoast Medical Supply, said. "We didn't anticipate it. The last time we had so many people looking for something specific, it was after 9/11 when people were looking for gas masks," continued Baldwin. 

The store is having a difficult time getting restocked because its suppliers are prioritizing medical practitioners and government-affiliated agencies first.

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There are two kinds of masks: an N95 respirator and a standard surgical mask. The N95 filters out 95 percent of small particles. A standard surgical mask is often used during routine procedures and is effective at retaining large droplets, released during talking, coughing or sneezing.

However, both the masks cannot protect you completely from virus particles. On a standard surgical mask, particles can still get to you from the sides. Particles can get onto both the masks, which you'll touch when taking off the mask or putting it back on, still putting you at risk of getting sick.

In Florida, your chances are catching coronavirus are low, as there has not yet been a confirmed case in the state. Therefore, experts say you don't need to be wearing a mask. 

Instead, practice good hygiene, wipe down your phone and surfaces in your home and wash your hands. You're more at risk of catching the flu in Florida than coronavirus, according to health officials.

The people who should be wearing masks are people that are actually sick to keep from spreading their illness. Infection specialists say people with discharge from their nose or mouth should be wearing a mask. 

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