SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With the growing concerns of the coronavirus in China and the United States, finding a protective N95 mask has become extremely hard.
Local stores including the Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center, a top selling store in the Western United States, says they are making extra orders through their ACE Hardware stores due to the rapid demand. Many customers were in on Monday buying large quantities.
Employees at the Home Depot in Goleta say they have seen customers buying "shopping baskets" full of the masks. Some had an interest in the resale potential, others were buying them for their employees.
Some tourists along the Santa Barbara and Montecito waterfront have been seen wearing them.
At the True Value Montecito Village Hardware Mark Ruiz, said his family owned business ran out Monday and expected a new shipment today.
Ruiz said he knew immediately the customer demand was going up two days ago. "They come right to the counter and they are already asking where the masks are."
He was surprised to see the demand. "They are grabbing them, they are getting them for family members and themselves and whoever. Just to have them on stock," he said.
Health officials say there is no clear widespread threat to the U.S. population at this time although cases have been reported since last weekend in Southern California.
The last time there was a run on these masks for health reasons was during the 2009 N1H1 virus crisis.
Locally thousands were worn during the Thomas fire in December of 2017 due to the unhealthy particulates in the air. "During the fire we were ordering them almost every other day we had back stock at that time just to have masks for everyone," said Ruiz.