Pharmacies and health service providers have begun to warn the public that should the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak continue, the U.S. could see a shortage of sanitation products. That's exactly what CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) and Walgreens (NASDAQ:WBA) have said on Friday, warning that supplies of hand sanitizers, face masks, and cleaning wipes could quickly run out.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said earlier that the best way to prevent transmission of COVID-19 is by washing one's hands thoroughly and frequently. Although COVID-19 isn't considered an airborne condition, people can become infected from the respiratory droplets produced from an infected individual's coughs and sneezes. As such, demand for products such as face masks and various sanitizers has surged over the past few days.
Other companies that sell healthcare products are ramping up production in order to meet this increased demand. Clorox (NYSE:CLX), a major manufacturer of cleaning goods, stated they would be increasing inventory levels in order to prepare for further COVID-19 outbreaks. Clorox is one of only four S&P 500 stocks to have increased this week while the rest of the market plunged.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 84,124 as of Friday evening, with the death count growing to 2,867. While China remains the focal point of the outbreak, this past week has seen an explosion of COVID-19 cases in non-Asian countries.
The most notable of these is Italy, which has seen 888 confirmed cases so far, making it the third-highest country in the world for confirmed COVID-19 cases after China and South Korea.