ALERT: Virus Fears Have Created A Chicago Area Mask Crisis

Menards N95 shortage Chicago
Menards in Cook County, shelves empty of masks.

As the Coronavirus known as COVID-19 (AKA the Wu Flu) spreads throughout the world, Chicago, Cook County, and beyond are facing a dire shortage of protective masks.

 There are two types of masks that are common and are often referenced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The first kind of masks are the surgical masks, which are loose-fitting masks that are held in place by hanging around the ears. As stated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) surgical masks are effective at stopping large droplets, but these masks do not provide complete protection. The other type of common mask is N95 respirator. The N95 have straps that go around the head that firmly hold the mask in place. N95 masks provide effective protection if worn right and are limited use, disposable respirators.

Neither of these types of mask are readily available anymore.

The State Of The Shortage

At hardware stores where the N95 respirators are sold, shelves have been barren for over a month. “I can’t keep them on the shelves,” said Alex, an employee at Menards. “If they come in at all, they’re gone immediately. I’ve checked the other stores to send guests to, and not a single store around us has them in stock.”

Sera, an employee at Home Depot had a similar story to tell. “Stores in a fifty-mile radius are out,” she said. “I think we have a shipment coming up from Mexico in a week, but that’s it.”

The situation is the same for the simpler and cheaper surgical masks. Most drug stores and grocers who commonly sell these masks are completely out. No comment from store employees indicated when new shipments of masks may arrive.

CVS cook county surgical mask shortage
Cook County CVS.

The only sellers that have the protective masks like the N95 respirator in stock are online realtors like eBay. However, to acquire a N95 respirator will cost a fortune due to price gouging. At Home Depot, a pack of 10 N95 masks retails right now for $22.97. That same respirator currently costs $199.95 on Ebay, and the product is moving.

ebay price gouge N95 Mask.
Ebay seller taking advantage of a good crisis.

As the virus spreads continues to spread, it is likely that the shortage will intensify.

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