I’m sure you’ve been seeing plenty of coronavirus (2019-nCoV, COVID-19) news. My goal for this post and potential posts is to focus on tool-related or pro-affecting news, observations, and happenings.
At the moment, the main tool and pro-related news is centered around PPE gear (respirators) and cleaning product shortages.
Disinfectant supplies, bleach, and other such materials are in short supply here, as shoppers stock up and prepare. Shown above is the cleaning section at the local Target store. If you require the use of any cleaners for your work, you might have to forego your favorite brand.
The local large supermarket seems to be selling a lot of toilet paper, and have even emptied their upper-level racks, despite authorities insisting that there are and won’t be any shortages or supply chain issues. There are no local sell-outs yet that I’ve seen.
The problem with panic-buying and hoarding, as it has been described by the media, is that it creates a shortage that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.
Hand sanitizer has become extremely scarce, sold out at the local Home Depot, Target, and supermarkets. Checking online, office supply stores, industrial suppliers, and other retailers are not shipping any consumer-aimed hand sanitizer products and are reporting zero or “limited” in-store inventories. Commercial products still seem to be available, such as wall dispenser refills.
Tyler wrote in today (thank you!), informing me that Ebay has started to remove 3rd party listings. It has been in the news recently 3rd party sellers were price-gouging customers.
The message reads:
Due to regulatory restrictions across the United States, we have chosen to ban certain items listed on our site.
Effective immediately, eBay will block new listings and start to remove listings that sell:
• Masks including N95/N100 and surgical masks
• Hand Sanitizer/Gel
• Disinfecting Wipes
We will continue to monitor the evolving situation and quickly remove any listing that mentions COVID-19, coronavirus, 2019nCoV (except books) in the title, description, or MPN.
These listings may violate applicable US laws or regulations, eBay policies, and exhibit unfair pricing behavior for our buyers.
I wrote about respirator shortages and price-gouging nearly two weeks ago, and the situation doesn’t seem to have improved. Pros that need respirators as part of their personal protective gear can still find reusable half-mask respirators at some places. Online inventories seem to be stretched, with backorders on Amazon now quoted as being 1-2 months on the SKUs I checked.
Home Depot seems to be sold out of all kinds of respirator PPE gear. I spotted a couple of hidden Milwaukee N95 masks at one local store, but they’re sure to be sold out by now.
3M has issued a statement (PDF) that they’ve received reports of an increase in fraudulent and counterfeit activity in connection with the novel coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV) and that examples include people fraudulently misrepresenting themselves as being affiliated with 3M and having authentic 3M product to sell or are selling counterfeit 3M products.
3M advises that customers only purchase their products from authorized dealers or distributors. They also offer tips on identifying and avoiding counterfeit products:
- 3M respirators will be sold in 3M packaging, with model-specific user instructions accompanying the product
- 3M respirators should not be sold individually, in bulk (such as large bags or boxes of loose respirators), or without packaging (including User Instructions)
- 3M has strict quality standards, and therefore products that have missing straps, strange odors, blocked valves, misspelled words, etc. are likely not authentic 3M respirators
After my post on respirators, am industry contact informed me that they’re:
getting reports from vendors that China is prohibiting the export of masks so they can keep them for their own use.
I’ve seen this mentioned one or two other places since then.
I received a marketing email from Bridge City Tools, now owned by Harvey Industries, a China-based manufacturer for woodworking machines and accessories, headquartered in Nanjing. The email promotes a new discount on the unconventionally-designed Gyro Air dust collector, and in the email they show the above graphic, saying:
Gyro Air; A Natural Enemy of Coronavirus
I can’t put my finger on why, but this really annoyed me. Different brands and retailers focus marketing on cold and flu season all the time, but in the midst of a worldwide outbreak, this seems inappropriate. Or am I overreacting?
I also received an email from an air purifier and humidifier company, focused on HEPA air purifiers, but that seemed less offensive. Their email advertised specific models that were being sent (sold?) to customers in Asia for use in “clinics and working spaces,” as well as hospitals.
I was asked to investigate the potential for tool-related supply chain disruptions, but have not seen or heard anything relevant, aside from the current shortage of respirators due to panic-buying and hoarding.
Are there any other tool-related angles that we should be paying attention to?