Stores are struggling to keep emergency preparedness goods like respirator masks and bulk non-perishable food on the shelves amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Perhaps the item most coveted by “preppers,” or those bracing for the worst, are N95 masks, respirators designed to filter 95% of particulate from the environment when worn correctly. As early as last week, sites like Amazon and Optics Planet had sold out of most varieties of N95 masks. Meanwhile, Ebay sellers seeking to make a quick buck have taken to listing the masks, which can usually be had for just a few dollars, for exorbitant sums— upwards of $1,000 per mask in extreme cases. (RELATED: Profiteers Try To Sell Respirators For Exorbitant Prices)
Washington state announced 4 more coronavirus deaths Monday, increasing the U.S. death toll to six, according to the Washington Post.
Despite the public desire to buy N95 masks, and the fact that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the government needs to stockpile 300 million N95 respirators according to Business Insider, the CDC says they’re not very effective at preventing the spread of coronavirus. This is because viruses are much smaller than most particulate filters, and people often fail to wear even the most advanced masks properly, according to LiveScience.
One product that is guaranteed to be necessary and effective during a disaster, however, is food. American Family Safety, a major retailer of pre-packaged food and water, says their sales have increased upwards of 600%, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Emergency food supplies are selling out fast. So, we are only making our most-requested products” says a similar business, Augason Farms that sells bulk food. Despite this, the site says that new orders will take 1-2 months to reach consumers.
Wise Food Company says that one of their most popular products, a bucket containing 60 or 120 meals is is backordered for “3-5 weeks” because of “very high demand caused by coronavirus concerns.”
Physical stores ares also affected by a recent spike in nervous shoppers.
One Target employee in Virginia described to the Washington Post how many shoppers are “obviously panic-buying, [and that] people [are] stocking up on eight gallons of water or 20 kinds of soups. Items are selling out immediately, as soon as they go up on shelves.”
“Everything is on backorder,” the owner of King’s Pharmacy in Manhattan, Jones Chen, told the Post as customers scramble to purchase disinfectant supplies.
Local outlets across the country have also reported similar conditions at stores like Costco as well as smaller retailers.
Google further indicates Americans’ heightened fear about COVID-19. The search engine’s trend-tracking analytic system reveals that queries for “N95” masks and “surgical mask for sale” have reached a year-long high with no ceiling in sight.
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