Essex pharmacist dispels myths of coronavirus for concerned customers

Concerns about coronavirus are causing a sales run on a number of supplies in Windsor-Essex pharmacies, and even though there have been no cases of COVID-19 in the area, one pharmacy owner said his customers are worried. 

Supplies like masks and sanitizers are running low, but personal medication supplies should be fine

Pharmacist Tim Brady is the owner of Brady's Drug Stores in Essex, Ont. and Belle River, Ont. He said he's running short on supplies like masks and hand sanitizer, but wants people to hold-off on stockpiling medications. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Concerns about coronavirus are causing a sales run on a number of supplies in Windsor-Essex pharmacies, and even though there have been no cases of COVID-19 in the area, one pharmacy owner said his customers are worried. 

Tim Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Brady's Drug Stores in Belle River and Essex. He said his customers are coming in looking for items like masks — which are almost impossible to find — but also have a lot of misinformation and questions about COVID-19.

"They're coming in asking lots of questions about how to transmit [the virus].," said Brady. "The biggest issues that we're having is people are concerned the virus is going to affect their drug supply, so some people are trying to come in to stockpile, afraid that they may run out."

Brady explained that most medications are made six to eight months ahead of the sales time. Brady is "concerned" about potential shortages, but is more concerned that the people stockpiling medicine will cause supply shortfalls. 

"When people produce [medications] they're assuming on a regular dispensing ... so if everyone comes in and gets twice as much as normal it could cause an issue," he said. "We're trying to tell everyone to take it easy."

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The biggest problem Brady facing is the shortage of masks. 

"All the suppliers are out," said Brady. "And the newest casualty is hand sanitizer."

Brady said he doesn't usually sell many masks and now has customers coming in to buy them by the dozens. Although sanitizer is in demand, Brady said the best way to lessen the chance of contracting the virus is to use soap.

"Wash your hands a lot with soap and water for at least 20 seconds," he said. "Hand sanitizer is a great option if there is no soap around." 

Hospital stays stocked

Windsor Regional Hospital stays stocked and ready to deal with pandemic situations, said Karen Riddell, vice president for critical care, cardiology, stroke, trauma and clinical support services. She said the hospital keeps at least four weeks' worth of medical supplies in case a pandemic situation were to break out.

Karen Riddell, vice president for clinical care at Windsor Regional Hospital, said the hospital maintains 'pandemic' supplies of medical equipment, in case of emergencies. (Jason Viau/CBC)

The province also has Ontario hospitals on an allocation right now, so that supplies go to the places that need them most. 

"We can't order more than we usually use," said Riddell, adding the hospital does daily inventory checks. "At this time we have no concerns with regards to current supply."

As for medications, Riddell said the hospital routinely deals with backorders, and there is no shortage in relation to COVID-19.

"We have minimal suppliers that don't have a plant that's in the U.S.," she said. "we have daily and weekly calls with regards to any back order situations — what the action plans are to resolve those or to mitigate the impact."

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She said hospital staff are also doing their best to make sure they aren't using supplies when it isn't necessary — especially when it comes to masks.

"Walking around with a mask is really not protecting you," said Riddell. "think it gives people a false sense of security."

Brady hopes people do their best to stay vigilant with protecting themselves, without going overboard. 

"It is a concern and it is something we should all be worried about," he said. "But if we can all stay calm we can work our way through it."