During the height of the pandemic you saw what were purported to be real single N95 masks going for $30 on eBay, and they were totally unobtainable in big box stores. I didn’t buy one for fear they were fake. Now you see a box of 20 for $25 on eBay, and the Home Depot a few cities over from me claims to have a box of 8210s in stock.
Is the supply of these really easing up, and is 3M’s system where you can authentic a code counterfeit-proof. Would love to be able to go inside a public building after a year again.
It does seem like N95s are becoming more available. I was checking Grainger periodically during the pandemic and they typically had none or just 1-2 kinds of masks. Now I see there are 15 models in stock:
I have this mask and find it’s pretty easy to breathe through. The waves give it extra surface area which reduces breathing resistance:
Speaking of HomeDepot, I saw they moved their surgical-style masks and sanitizer to the clearance section. That’s probably also a sign that mask supply is becoming more available and people can get them easier than before.
The NPR podcast The Indicator recently discussed this.
N95 masks are currently in a market failure situation. A year ago, people were told not to buy N95s so they would be available for health care workers. Many companies increased production capacity making more masks available. Except, many of those smaller and rural health care providers ran out of money, so they’re not buying the now available N95s.
Many retailers will still not carry N95s, so they are available for health care workers, which has the side effect of reducing demand at a time when supply is high.
This all creates a situation where many people who want them can’t get them, and companies that want to sell them can’t. Hopefully this will sort itself out very soon.
Here is a link to the company they talk to in the story. $80 for 20 masks.