Mask sales sharply rise amid surging cases of Delta variant

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Masks are flying off the shelves once again as cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant surge and are expected to climb even higher, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

Sales were up 24 percent this week ending Tuesday, compared to the prior week, after two months of declining revenue, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Instacart said its online mask sales have been rising since July 4 after a three-month decline, and Google searches for “masks” have doubled since the CDC recommended indoor-mask mandates even for fully vaccinated people Tuesday, the search engine said.

The increase came even though the chances of becoming severely ill with the Delta variant are extremely low to inoculated individuals, according to scientists.

About half of Americans are fully vaccinated, and those who are not currently account for around 99.5 percent of COVID-19 deaths and 97 percent of hospitalizations.

As more municipalities once again require masks indoors, New York City is set to issue new local guidance next week based on the CDC’s new advice.

The increased mask sales come after the items were heavily discounted following the CDC’s May guidance that vaccinated Americans could leave their face coverings at home in most circumstances.

Weekly mask sales plummeted from $101 million to $37 million between April and June.

“People were just not buying them — masks were really fading out,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.

Now, uncertainty about the direction of the pandemic and mixed messages from health officials have retailers unsure how to proceed.

“No one actually wants to go out and make another big commitment,” Saunders said. “No one knows what’s going to happen.”

At the beginning of the pandemic 3M Co. increased its yearly production of N95 masks from about 700 million to 2.5 billion.

CEO Mike Roman told analysts on Tuesday 3M Co. is “prepared to increase production in response to COVID-19-related needs or future emergencies when needed.”

Vanessa Gordon, an independent mask maker that only sold about 100 face coverings last year amid steep competition, is confident she will now sell the rest of her inventory and produce more.

“People are still getting sick — even those who are vaccinated,” Gordon said. “This is shifting people’s mindset. I think we will be wearing masks for a long time.”

With AP wires

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