The Business Of Making Masks During COVID-19

By The Biz Team (Siam)


The COVID-19 pandemic started with a whimper in Wuhan, China. Isolated reports at that time indicated that a flu-like illness was present, but it was not readily transmissible to other humans. Six months later, COVID-19 has wreaked worldwide havoc. Millions of people have contracted the disease, and at least 600,000 people have died. Thousands of businesses have gone under, and millions have become unemployed. The experts suggest that the key to preventing this disorder is social distancing and wearing a mask.


Initially, there was a great deal of controversy about the use of masks and which types to wear. Now, it is universally agreed that some type of mask should be worn while indoors at a public place. However, it was quickly realized that there was a severe shortage of masks. Healthcare workers were constantly complaining that they were running out of masks, and the public was frustrated because all the masks were sold out.


In this opportunistic country of ours, there are always some charlatans who will prey on the misfortune of others. Suddenly masks were being sold on eBay and Amazon at five to ten times the regular price. Plane loads of masks began to arrive from China and other countries. Sadly, the majority of these masks were of poor quality, had never been tested, and were found to be defective. The government started to crack down on the fraudulent sellers of rogue masks. The President stated that the USA would no longer rely on foreigners to supply our medical products, including masks. Not only did this stop the import of masks, it also created a major league mask industry in the USA. Today, there are more than two dozen manufacturers of masks in the USA alone, each making thousands of masks every single day. At the same time, there are thousands of sellers of masks across the nation.


There are masks made of every type of fabric, size, color, and shape. Most masks are made from cotton, polyester, nylon, and spandex. As the number of cases of coronavirus increases by the day, so has the mask production. There is a tsunami of masks. In fact, with many retail stores making mask-wearing mandatory, there has been an even bigger rush to buy masks by the consumer.


As this article is written, more than half the United States issued statewide mask requirements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization are still recommending that the public wear masks or non-medical coverings when outside the home. The one rule of any mask is that it should cover both the mouth and the nose.


The masks sold to the public are made of reusable cloth masks, scarves, bandannas; anything that will help decrease the risk of large aerosolized particles and droplets from entering the individual's lungs, or preventing spread to others while sneezing or coughing. The cloth masks can even be washed in hot water and dried on high heat to kill any organisms. They can be reused a number of times, depending on the manufacturer. Theramask says its mask can be reused 30 times. However, most of the manufacturers put in a disclaimer that their masks may not stop the coronavirus from entering the lungs.


The masks cost anywhere from $1 to $20 each, depending on the style and re-usability. The cost of manufacture is minuscule and the profit margin is huge. Since people are now slowly returning to work, wearing masks has become even more of a necessity. This has led to the manufacture of fashionable and eco-friendly masks. Just like shoes and ties, there are now face masks that can match your hair, clothes, and shoes. In fact, some people have started to wear different masks for different occasions.


For the buyer, he or she has no way of knowing if the mask will prevent coronavirus. Most of the public has never worn a mask prior to the COVID pandemic, and would have no idea what flaws to look for. Many people just put on the mask in front of the mirror and make sure that it looks presentable; whether the mask works or not is not a priority. More often than not, one will see people with masks just covering the mouth and not the nose.


Individuals who want to spruce up their masks are now adding their logos, emojis, and initials on the masks. Disney is selling cloth masks with a variety of Disney characters. Many professional sports teams like the NFL and NBA are selling licensed face masks with their team logos. These masks cost over $15, but no one knows if they work.


One startup has gone a step beyond. Maskclub.com is offering a monthly subscription service for reusable cloth face masks that feature many designs and images, from iconic TV shows to celebs. Each mask is $13.99, but a subscription is $9.99 a month. Mask mania surely has taken over the country.


To avoid being accused of capitalizing on a deadly virus, most of these mask manufacturers state that a certain percentage of sales will go to charity. How much actually goes to charity, and how much goes to a CEO's salary remains questionable.


In April 2020, Etsy alone sold over 12 million masks, making $133 million in that month. At last count, there were over 60,000 sellers of masks in the country. Gap, the clothing store which is on the verge of bankruptcy, certainly knows there is money to be made...the company enlisted Kim Kardashian to promote its face mask.


It is estimated that by the end of the year, more than five billion masks will be sold. Face masks have now become part of the wardrobe. Like it or not, the COVID-19 epidemic has not been bad for some people, who have found that saving lives while being fashion forward, can be a very profitable business.


References

  1. Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

  2. Interim Guidance for the Use of Masks to Control Seasonal Influenza Virus Transmission. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/maskguidance.htm

  3. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks

  4. Faulty masks. Flawed tests. China’s quality control problem in leading global COVID-19 fight

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-04-10/china-beijing-supply-world-coronavirus-fight-quality-control

  1. Meet the companies manufacturing face masks to plug coronavirus shortages

https://www.nsmedicaldevices.com/analysis/companies-manufacturing-face-masks/

  1. Fashion Brands Making Cloth Masks You Can Buy Now. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/trends/g32192171/fashion-brands-masks-coronavirus/


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