The Price of the Pandemic

February 15, 2022

Briefs, Covid-19 adjustments

Within the last few months the pandemic has worsened and the price of masks has gone up. The Omicron variant has rendered cloth masks less effective. Businesses have taken advantage of the new demand by gouging the price of more effective masks since the very beginning of the pandemic. While the problem is mainly in the US, communities around the world have been dealing with this issue as well.

Many have trouble getting their hands on the masks they need and when they finally do, it leaves a major dent in their wallets. The cloth masks that the masses have gotten used to suddenly have become less effective against the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 due to the variation being able to pass easily through cloth. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) the best measures for staying safe are the N95 and KN95 masks. These disposable surgical masks have been deemed more effective in protection because they offer multiple layers of filtration for the wearer. This poses a problem for people who cannot afford to consistently buy and dispose of their masks.

With the sudden demand of disposable surgical masks the supply chain has been unable to keep up and the publicare finding it difficult to obtain their supplies. On the chance that people do find what they need, it costs an absurdly high price. The same issue is seen with other COVID protective gear and testing kits.

A pack of 40-count KN95 masks was around $16.99 in November 2021. The same amount or less goes for around $79.99 currently. KN95 masks could be bought for even less before the pandemic. A few months after the pandemic started, prices increased to the $15 to $30 range it has been at until recently. Jordan Larsen, a 22-year old retail worker had to pay $72 for a 20-pack of KN95 masks down in Tennessee and had this to say; “I thought that was just kind of ridiculous because it’s something that is needed right now for protection, especially for people like me as a retail worker that a lot of people rely on.”

The Biden Administration is working to provide high quality masks to the public at no extra cost and is working to enact laws that will help the public with accessing resources. Soon the US government and private insurance companies will be required to reimburse people four to eight covid tests a month. Biden has also turned to invoking the Defense Production Act. The Defense Production Act allows the executive branch–the president and the secretaries–to direct the supply and pricing of companies outside of government control. Biden has been using this to increase the production of masks, tests, and vaccines by having the companies focus more of their output into the necessary products. 

President Biden’s promise to bring free protective supplies to the public has not prevailed. People in financial crises are still struggling to protect themselves and their families. Production has gone up but the price of materials is still at a high. Only time will tell if the pandemic can regain a sense of normalcy.

Ian Valenzuela | ivalenzuela@theaskacademy.org | ASK Catalyst Writer

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