The first human-to-human transmission of coronavirus in the U.S. was confirmed on Thursday, hitting all media outlets, which will drive fears and push consumers to purchase virus masks online and or at brick and mortar stores. There's just one big problem: virus masks are all sold out.
The run on virus masks started several weeks ago. We first documented the run seven days ago, noting how Google searches for "n95 mask" were exponentially rising across the world.
Six days ago, we documented how the 3M N95 Medical Mask was sold out in Asia as the deadly virus spread across China and surrounding countries.
Then four days ago, we started to notice "virus mask" and "n95 mask" searches in the U.S. were continuing to rise.
While searching for 3M N95 masks at Home Depot stores across the country, we found that many of the stores from New York to California were sold out.
Now the Financial Times has joined in the reporting on updating on the mask situation in the U.S. and Europe.
Their report notes "online retailers, manufacturers and pharmacies in the EU and U.K. selling out of the products in the past week," which is in-line with our reporting.
In a statement from 3M, which supplies the N95 mask, the company said it expanded production and is "working with distributors to help ensure they have inventory to meet end-user demand."
S.P. Services, a UK-based medical supplier, said it just experienced several years' worth of demand in the last two weeks as a huge run on masks is underway thanks to coronavirus fears.
Simon Leggett, managing director of S.P. Services, told the Times that "3M brand is the hot one, the one that everybody wants at the moment."
Again, F.T.'s report is in-line with our reporting, as many in Asia have only demanded 3M N95 masks. We noted in one instance, prices of 3M N95 masks in Japan skyrocketed many folds last week as a shortage was seen.
"It's crazy — it's the first time I've seen a global scale mask event," said Chris Dobbing, CEO of Cambridge Mask Company, a UK-based group which makes masks.
Dobbing said its production facilities in Xiamen,China, and Batam, Indonesia, had been ramped up to the highest production output to meet the unprecedented demand.
China said on Thursday that is has urged domestic manufacturers to increase mask output as confirmed cases jumped to 8,200 worldwide, with 170 fatalities.
CVS, a major US pharmacy chain with 9,000 stores, said that it requested more virus masks from suppliers as they're flying off the shelves in all 50 states.
"They're sold out everywhere," said a manager at a CVS pharmacy in Manhattan's SoHo district.
"I have never experienced anything this significant," said Ray Scott, owner of ATC Medical in Tennessee, an online medical products company.
"[Consumers] are buying any type of mask. At first, they were particular about a certain kind, but inventory went to zero. Then they started looking at other types of masks, and that all went to zero," said Scott.
Boots, one of the largest pharmacy retailers in the U.K., said many of its virus masks have sold out in the last several weeks.
The company said it was "working to make additional stock available for customers to purchase in store and on boots.com which we hope will land over the next week."
Amazon sellers in the U.S. and Europe have also sold out of certain virus masks, as the confirmed cases have now exceeded the entire SARS epidemic.