Demand for face masks has not reached its peak


TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As the reopening process begins, and more and more people begin to venture out of their homes, the need for face masks is expected to significantly increase. 

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, masks were not considered necessary unless you were working in close contact with someone who was infected, but that has since been revised. As the country starts to reopen and people begin to venture out of their homes, masks are now a must.

“The mask can make the difference between life and death,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Hakan Hekimoglu, an assistant professor of supply chain management and analytics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said that sudden shift is putting a significant strain on the supply chain.

“COVID has exposed some of the good practices as well as the bad practices in supply chain management, though I cannot easily blame it on the companies because it has been a tremendous shock from the demand side as well,” said Hekimoglu.

Hekimoglu told NEWS10 ABC the demand for face masks has not even peaked, yet. While most large manufacturing companies have been focused on producing N95s for healthcare and essential workers, he said they will now have to start producing masks for the general public, too.

“We should be planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Planning for the worst might not be the economically most effective way for companies, but we are in a public health situation and this is a time for everyone, including the companies, to step up,” said Hekimoglu.

He said a coordinated perspective and intervention from the government is also necessary in this unprecedented situation. He said the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing some guidance on how to make your own mask is a sign that the supply chain is not where it needs to be.

Here in the Capital Region, many people are sewing up a storm at home and doing what they can to feed the need. A number of local businesses have also shifted their normal operations to produce reusable face masks, but Hekimoglu said, from a supplier’s perspective, there is still so much uncertainty.

“Let’s say they invest in the capacity to provide face masks with a plan for the next two years and after six months or three months, if the coronavirus goes away, then it will be a sunk investment for the companies,” said Hekimoglu.

He said, while it’s great that this is creating an unexpected business opportunity for many, he believes there should be some clear guidelines put in place for the producers.

“I personally think, for homemade masks or the masks that are produced by start-ups, there needs to be some standardization in order to make sure the products that we are buying from different sources are complying with the purpose of the product,” said Hekimoglu.

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