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Face masks becoming hard to find as coronavirus fears rise in Indiana

Posted at 1:44 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 19:34:31-05

INDIANAPOLIS — If you've been out trying to find a box of face masks at your local pharmacy you may have come face-to-face with some empty shelves.

As fears of novel coronavirus (or COVID-19) continue to rise in the U.S. and beyond, people are beginning to stock up on things they believe will help them if it spreads to their area.

Local retailers are having similar problems keeping up with demand.

Stores like CVS Pharmacy, have already placed signs in the face mask sections of their store saying the masks and gloves may be "temporarily unavailable due to high demand."

But it's not just local businesses seeing their mask supply run low, industrial companies are finding it hard to get the masks they need for their customers and construction sites as well.

Brooks Bemis, Division Manager for Indianapolis-based industrial supplier Haggard & Stocking, said the masks his customers order are getting harder to find and impossible to keep in stock.

"We have had massive requests from all around the country for masks, but we can't fill any of the orders. We had to ration the couple-hundred cases we had in stock at the onset of the virus to our customers who we had contracts with," Bemis said.

Bemis said he's been told it could be at least four months to get the respirators he needs for his customers and there is no guarantee that they would arrive in that time frame.

READ | Full Coronavirus Coverage From RTV6

Haggard and Stocking president Jeff Haggard said he hears a desperation in customers' voices when they call asking for face masks.

"We knew something was going to happen. We just didn't know it was going to be as bad as it is right now," Jeff Haggard said. "We are getting phone calls for 1 million piece orders. I wish I could supply, but I can't."

Though roughly 2,800 people have died from the virus, Dr. Heidi Hancher-Rauck said if people have a healthy immune system, it will run its course similar to a cold and having flu-like symptoms.

"My best guess is knowing what we know about the spread of infectious illness is like this, it will be in Indiana and it probably won't be too long before it is," she said. "A flu shot and flu prevention strategies are probably more important for you than to be worried about the coronavirus."

RTV6 also reached out to several stores and businesses about the lack of face masks, so far only Kroger and Walmart have responded to those requests. You can read their responses below.

We continue to monitor the development of the coronavirus situation globally and are closely following official recommendations. We are working collaboratively with our suppliers to understand and mitigate any supply chain disruptions and continue to provide the products our customers want and need.”

The people who buy masks for Kroger are resourceful. They’re doing their best to find face masks, but the buyers tell me demand is outpacing supply. So, we are as challenged as other retailers in trying to keep them in stock.”