Tampa strip club offers face masks to customers to fight spread of coronavirus

Health experts, however, have said face masks are not recommended for use by the general public.
A Tampa strip club said its helping fight the spread of coronavirus by giving face masks to its customers.
A Tampa strip club said its helping fight the spread of coronavirus by giving face masks to its customers. [ Times files/Deja Vu Showgirls ]
Published March 9, 2020|Updated March 10, 2020

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A strip club in Tampa said it’s trying to do its part to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Déjà Vu Showgirls Tampa announced Friday it would be giving away 10,000 face masks to its customers throughout March. Déjà Vu Services, Inc., the company that operates the strip club and 200 other strip clubs and adult-themed stores, announced a similar giveaway at Little Darlings, a sister location in Las Vegas. There, the company said it would give away 50,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, which health officials have said is more effective in fighting the spread of a virus.

“An opportunity to help with the coronavirus scare strikes a special emotional chord with us,” Mark Figueroa, Déjà Vu’s general manager, said in a news release. “One of my close friends recently tested positive. While she’s likely to be just fine, I know many others will have a different fate, so we wanted to do something helpful."

As of Monday morning, data from the Florida Department of Health showed 12 Floridians currently in the state had tested positive for coronavirus, including a Hillsborough County woman who flew through Tampa International Airport after a trip to Italy. There are 115 tests pending in Florida and 302 people are currently being monitored. Last week, a Florida man and a woman in their 70s who had contracted the virus died.

“It might seem silly,” Figueroa said. “But we take the health of our guests very seriously."

As fear of the virus rises with the number of positive cases throughout the world and more cases expected in the Florida and U.S., items like face masks and hand sanitizer have been disappearing from store shelves and online retailers alike. Health experts and officials with the health department, however, have warned against using face masks.

“We do not recommend people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses,” Kevin Watler, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County said. “You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A face mask should be used by people who have COVID-19 (the technical name for the disease) and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected.”

Dr. Marc Yacht, a former health director of Pasco County who retired in 2007, said face masks are ineffective in preventing someone from contracting a virus. They’re better suited to keep someone who already has an infection from spreading it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend using face masks either. Instead, it has advised the public to keep a 6-foot distance from others, cover your nose and mouth if you cough or sneeze, stay home if you’re not well and wash your hands frequently. While soap and water is most recommended to keep hands clean, the CDC has said hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can be a suitable alternative.

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When it comes to masks, there are different levels of protection. The N95 respirator is certified to keep out at least 95 percent of microscopic airborne particles, but what most are turning to is a simple surgical mask, which is looser fitting and offers much less protection. Yacht stressed that wearing a mask, while it might offer comfort and peace of mind, offers no significant protection from contracting the virus.

“There’s a lot of fear out there about the virus. Putting the mask on, you’re gonna feel better, but I don’t know if it’s going to do anything unless you’re already infected,” he said. “You’d have to wear full headgear to protect yourself from a virus.”

Representatives from Déjà Vu did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

Q&A: The latest and all your questions answered.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Household cleaners can kill the virus on most surfaces, including your phone screen.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.

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