The worldwide shortage of medical masks has forced health officials in the United States to ask people not to hoard the masks while emphasizing that the risk of contracting the virus in North America still remains extremely low. Never the less, the demand for medical masks of all types continues to rise as those concerned about the coronavirus becoming a global pandemic continue to rise.
Many on Twitter report shelves being empty in stores like Walmart and Walgreens – while Amazon says that the 3rd most searched for term on their website in February has been ” N95 Mask ”
In Japan, fear of the virus has hit new levels and the shortage of masks has created price gauging situations where some basic surgical masks that would normally retail for only a few dollars are being auctioned online for up to a $100.
Some experts worry that this sudden spike in demand for medical masks might create a shortage for first responders and medical personnel in the health care industry who are at the front lines of treating patients. The CDC is currently communicating with manufacturers to prevent the possibility of shortages, the New York Times reported – leading some to speculate that masks for the general public will be nearly impossible to find in the case of a full blown coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
If the coronavirus outbreak continues, however, mask manufacturing overseas could be disrupted. Most surgical masks and respirators are produced outside of the US, which means supply chains could be vulnerable if a global pandemic breaks out.