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Coronavirus: Facebook to ban medical face mask ads to help prevent virus exploitation

Coronavirus outbreak: How effective is a standard surgical mask in preventing infection?
WATCH: Coronavirus outbreak: How effective is a standard surgical mask in preventing infection?

Facebook is temporarily banning advertisements for medical face masks as part of an effort to prevent use of its platform to exploit people’s concerns about the new coronavirus.

The ban covers advertisements on the social media platform as well as commercial listings on Facebook Marketplace, the company said. Facebook said it would begin to enforce the ban over the next few days.

“Our teams are monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management, said in a statement issued late Friday.

READ MORE: Mothers brawl in person over Facebook argument about coronavirus

Facebook noted that it previously announced a ban on ads that make claims about the health benefits of a particular product or guaranteed that “a product will prevent someone from contracting” the disease.

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Some public health officials have urged people to stop buying masks. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome M. Adams noted in a tweet on Feb. 29 that masks aren’t effective in protecting the general public “but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

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In a separate development, Amtrak announced that it was cancelling its nonstop Acela passenger train service between Washington, D.C., and New York City through late May because of a sharp drop in demand. That service will be cancelled starting Tuesday and through May 28, Amtrak said.

The cancellation does not affect Amtrak’s other high-speed Acela service connecting Washington, New York and Boston, which runs several times per day with limited stops.