22:55 GMT26 September 2020
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    An analysis of Google Trends reveals that searches for the term “face mask” reached a record high between January 26 and February 1 amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

    According to Google Trends, which is a website that analyzes the popularity of search queries on Google, there was a big jump in searches for “face mask” in late January - the time that news regarding the crisis went mainstream. The virus is believed to have started spreading in mainland China’s Wuhan some time between December 12 and December 29. As of this article’s publishing, Google searches for “face mask” remain much more frequent than they were before the news of the coronavirus broke. 

    The coronavirus outbreak has also increased sales of face masks, according to a report by WIRED, which states that Amazon has notified merchants on its website not to raise mask prices too high. Several countries, such as China, Hong Kong and Italy, are also experiencing mask shortages. According to a Tuesday report by the Washington Post, many hospital systems in the US are running out of the specialized masks needed to contain an impending coronavirus outbreak because federal protocols mandate that such masks be disposed of after a single use during practice sessions.

    On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that the US government and public health officials in the country are “implementing aggressive measures to slow and contain transmission of COVID-19 in the United States” amid a potential outbreak.

    According to the latest data by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, there are currently 57 cases of the novel coronavirus in the US.

    “Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in the United States,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, is quoted as saying Tuesday by NPR, referring to widespread transmission of the coronavirus within the US. “It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.”

    “I had a conversation with my family over breakfast this morning. And I told my children that while I didn't think that they were at risk right now, we, as a family, need to be preparing for significant disruption of our lives,” Messonnier added, noting that school closings, workplace shutdowns and large public event cancellations may occur in the near future to stem a coronavirus outbreak in the US.

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