From searching for disinfectant wipes to paper products, Americans have been on a rather intensive scavenger hunt thanks to COVID-19. And at the center of that hunt is the N95 mask. The problem? A shortage of an essential textile used in N95's called "meltblown."
So just how hard is it to find the mask health officials say is the best at protecting people from contracting COVID-19 in public? Newsy sent me out to see if we could hunt this mask down in the Chicago area.
I began the search as many shoppers now do, online.
Looking at Amazon I see a lot of listings for KN95 masks, which are the Chinese standard for masks, but only one listing for a pack of Makrite 9500-N95S Pre-Formed Cone Particulate Respirators Masks. The pack is priced at $123 but is noted as being prioritized for organizations on the front lines of the virus.
Heading over to Walmart online, and there's no mention of N95's at all. The website mostly consisted of 3-ply disposable masks, cloth masks and industrial grade respirators used for painting.
Unable to find N95 masks easily online, I'm going to see if I can find the mask on the shelves at Home Depot or my neighborhood Ace Hardware.
First stop, Home Depot, which required face coverings in order to enter.
So I could not find an N95 mask in my local Home Depot store. I ended up asking one of the employees there if he knew when the store would be getting a shipment of the masks and he said he wasn't sure if they would be getting anymore shipments at all. He did however give me a free disposable mask, which he says the store is carrying plenty of.
Next stop, Ace Hardware.
Again, I was unable to find an N95 mask. Instead I found quite a collection of KN95's available for around $8 each.
Unfortunately, my search for an N95 mask today, both online and in local stores around me, proved unsuccessful. Medical experts say there is still a shortage of the masks and that struggles with the supply chain will likely persist for some time. So for now, the scavenger hunts for N95 masks will just have to continue.