N95 Mask Supply and Demand Mismatch Continues : The Indicator from Planet Money The start of the COVID-19 pandemic led to an N95 mask shortage. Now there's still a shortage, but many American mask manufacturers can't sell their masks. We break down the reasons why.
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15 Million N95s Without A Buyer

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15 Million N95s Without A Buyer

15 Million N95s Without A Buyer

15 Million N95s Without A Buyer

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/982831448/982852084" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images
(Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

A lot of us first heard of N95 masks, the gold standard of face masks, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. They were almost impossible to get at the time, which makes sense considering the astronomical spike in demand and the fact that some countries had restricted exports.

The mask shortage never went away though. Prices for N95s are still much higher than pre-pandemic levels, meaning many health care workers have to reuse masks. But there's also an N95 supply glut at the exact same time.

Luis Arguello is the president of the medical supplies company DemeTECH. He has about 15 million N95 masks sitting in one Miami factory alone.

So there's demand, and there's supply to meet that demand! What is causing this failure of the market? On The Indicator, we tackle the economic mystery behind the breakdown in the market for N95 masks.

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