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Dust mask for sharpening? - Good luck finding one
Need a dust mask for sharpening?  Good luck finding one… anywhere.
Due to COVID-19 fears (hysteria?) the shelves of local stores are deplete of masks and respirators.  Same with on-line suppliers.  Even the very large suppliers with deep inventory such as McMaster and other major industrial safety equipment, painter supplies, welding shops, etc., are wiped out of stock.
When I heard about the shortage I checked it out on-line.  I actually ended up spending a couple of hours at it going from supplier to supplier.  Sure enough, it was a futile effort.  Like chasing the proverbial wild goose.  There are still some wimpy large particulate masks around, but anything N95 or better rated are basically unavailable.  This is not good for businesses that need a constant supply of masks for the shop environment.
The whole thing gave me sort of an eerie-freaky feeling like actually seeing the seeds of one of those apocalyptic sci-fi movies unfolding before my very eyes.  Soon there will be roving disheveled hoards of the unwashed, clad only in tatters with newspaper wrapped in duct tape for shoes huddled around 55 gallon drums of smoldering trash for warmth.  Police drones will fill the skies in an attempt to maintain social order and seek out the newly undead zombie dudes stumbling around in search or living flesh for lunch.  (Sorry, I let my imagination get the better of me.)
But less humorously, if you need masks and/or respirators for a shop environment the outlook for sourcing any, especially in the near/foreseeable future, appears to be rather bleak.
I was quite surprised when I checked the link for the respirator I bought a few weeks ago. "Currently Unavailable". All the variants. "Currently Unavailable".

Yup.  As I mentioned, I checked it out pretty thoroughly going 10 pages deep in Google searches with a variety of different search terms.  Inventory is sold out nation wide.

It’s not surprising that small stores are out.  I wouldn’t think that dust masks and respirators are really big movers so they may only have 5 or 10 on hand at any time.  More ominously, as far as I could find, all of the very large suppliers such as McMaster, MSC, National Safety, Grainger, Walmart, Amazon, CVS and the ilk inventories are depleted.  I also checked out less obvious sources like veterinary supplies, welding supplies, painter supplies and the story is the same.

Another portentous foreshadowing is that the big guys say they don’t expect more inventory before next May.  Of course that may or may not happen.  If COVID-19 flourishes all bets are off as masks and respirators will be mostly allocated to health systems, national defense and the like.  General shop use will be way down on the importance list.  Somewhat menacingly, a lot but not all masks sourced from China.  I don’t know for sure, but it’s a good bet that even masks assembled in the US use materials from China.  Not only is what is going on in China not well understood but it’s way too early to predict how it will affect manufacturing and lead times there.

Nobody knows how this COVID-19 thing is going to pan out.  It could severely sicken 30% of the US population and become a really, really big and disruptive deal.  Alternatively it could end up like a bad flu season, or a mild flu, or just another seasonal affliction that folks get accustomed to, or it may just fizzle out like SARS (also a coronavirus) did.

Who would have ever thought there would be a dust mask supply disruption?  I’ve never really given them a second thought.  I generally have some around for spray painting, grinding or sanding, etc.  Run out?  Quick trip to the hardware store solves it inexpensively. No big deal.

Because it’s a potential health issue, I saw many instances of price gouging during my Internet searches.  Boxes of 10 masks that were $19.95, are now selling for $50.00 - $200.00.  And that’s for disposable masks!  Geeze.  

I’m not trying to be alarmist, but simply saying that if you need dust masks or respirators the available supply is currently extremely limited, becoming more so, and sourcing any for any reason is tenuous, time consuming and rapidly increasing in difficulty while decreasing in likelihood of success.

Here's one for that creepy sci-fi feeling.  This is from the home page of National Safety, Inc, a very large supplier of safety equipment:

(02-28-2020, 09:12 PM)grepper Wrote: Yup.  As I mentioned, I checked it out pretty thoroughly going 10 pages deep in Google searches with a variety of different search terms.  Inventory is sold out nation wide.

Hi grepper,
I don't know if these are what you need (UK supplier)? I've used them for DIY home projects and they were great for dust etc. and may be equally suitable for a workshop environment.  From what I can make out they are in stock and the company ships internationally...
Cheers, Andrew
Thanks for the link Mr. smurfs.  After a lot of searching and calling companies to check stock, I managed to get two boxes of 10 masks each.  20 masks will handle my shop needs for some time to come.  That said, if the COVID-19 thing becomes a big deal 20 is just a drop in the bucket.  But that's a whole different animal.

Here's a tip when trying to order masks:  Don't trust web ordering.  Call the company to verify stock level.  A lot of web sites don't accurately reflect stock levels and will gladly accept orders when no stock is available. Been there, done that.

It's interesting that the UK still has masks available.  It's reasonable to expect that condition is ephemeral.  

Now I hear there is a rush on hand sanitizer and disposable gloves.  What's next?  Canned goods?  It's interesting to watch this situation evolve.  Crowd behavior and hoarding of goods is very predictable, especially for sci-fi apocalypse movie fans.  

Hopefully this COVID-19 thing will fizzle out and we can purchase dust masks like before.  But, if what is happening in other countries is indicative some disruption of normal seems more rather than less likely.  Not much is happening here in the US yet, but now what has been deemed "community spread" infections where no identifiable point of contact are being reported.  

You know, I just watch TV.  News reports from afflicted countries show EVERYONE making a sortie into public space is wearing a mask.  It's just normal for those areas.  Will that happen in the US?  Who knows, but if it does the US is not ready and and availability of dust masks is one of the first symptoms.  Dust masks are really nice to have for sanding a table top or spray painting and lots of other stuff.

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