‘It’s mask mania’: RI hardware store sells out of face masks amid coronavirus concerns


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Less than a day after U.S. health officials sounded the alarm over the “inevitable spread” of the coronavirus, a hardware store in Providence says it’s sold out of face masks.

One of the owners of Adler’s Hardware, Harry Adler, says the store has sold a six-month supply of masks in a matter of six weeks. He said it’s unusual for them to not have them in stock.

“For no particular reason, we had a larger-than-typical amount on hand when the coronavirus came out, so for a while, we were selling them,” he said. “This morning we had some, and now we don’t.”

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Tuesday that it’s not a matter of “if” the coronavirus will spread nationwide, but “when,” adding that the country needs to ensure it’s prepared for a potential pandemic.

The type of face mask, called the N95, is used to protect from liquid or airborne particles from contaminating the face, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Adler tells Eyewitness News the store’s supplier is not only sold out of the masks but has 100,000 N95 masks on backorder.

“It’s mask mania,” he said. “It reminds me of snow shovels after the Blizzard of ’78.”

A spokesperson for CVS Pharmacy tells Eyewitness News the company is working with its suppliers to meet customer demand for face masks.

“This demand may cause shortages at some store locations and we’ll re-supply those stores as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

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