Until just recently, an “outbreak” store operated by the Daily Caller was selling N95 respirator masks as part of a “survival kit” that retailed for up to $254.99. Health care professionals have faced a large shortage of the masks, which are not recommended for the public, and have pleaded with consumers to stop hoarding them.
As the Food and Drug Administration states, “N95 respirators and surgical masks (face masks) are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face.” It adds that the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.”
Medical professionals around the country have faced a shortage of N95 masks for various reasons, including hoarding. As a result, they have spent weeks pleading with the public to stop hoarding the masks and to donate them to medical facilities. On February 27, CDC Director Robert Redfield told a congressional subcommittee: “We need to make sure those N95 masks are available for the doctors and nurses that are going to be taking care of individuals that have this illness.”
After receiving criticism, Target recently apologized for selling N95 masks in certain stores in Washington state. 3M CEO Mike Roman, whose company is the largest manufacturer of N95 masks, said that the masks shouldn’t be sold in retail stores to the public because of the shortage.
The N95 masks were recently being sold at Outbreak Provisions, an online store which says that it wishes “to provide you and your family peace of mind by providing essential emergency supplies that can help keep your family safe in a time like this.” Fine print on the website states that it “is operated by Daily Caller Inc” and doing business as OutbreakProvisions.com. The site appears to be relatively new: Its domain name was privately registered on February 28, 2020. The Daily Caller sent a March 25 email to its list which advertised the site.
The store had been selling “N95 Respirator Dust Masks” in various “survival kits.” Those included its “Survival Kit for Children” (two versions); “1 Person Elite Survival Kit” (two versions); “2 Person Survival Kit” (two versions); “4 Person Elite Survival Kit”; “5 Person Survival Kit”; and “10 Person Survival Kit.” The 10-person kit was the most expensive, selling for $254.99.
Outbreak Provisions is no longer selling the N95 masks but the site indicated it was the supplier’s decision, stating, “Due to the increased need for N95 masks at hospitals and other institutions, our supplier has decided to donate the remaining inventory to aid those most impacted by the COVID-19 virus. All orders placed prior to 03/21/20 will still receive masks in their kits however all orders going forward will no longer have this item included.”
Despite that notice, a March 25 commerce article on the Daily Caller still claimed that the Outbreak Provisions had “N95 Respirator Dust Masks.”
The Daily Caller has frequently promoted its Outbreak Provisions store in recent days in commerce articles about the coronavirus. Those articles carry headlines like: “Stronger Together: Here’s How You Can Help Protect Your Family And Close Friends”; “As Experts Warn Covid Crisis Could Drag…Stocking Up On Essentials Remains Key”; and “Worried About Covid-19? Here Are Three Things You Should Be Doing To Prepare Right Now.”
In a February 26 article, the Daily Caller discussed N95 masks by writing that “some aspiring disaster profiteers have taken to listing masks at exorbitant rates on Ebay. Prices for these upcharged masks range from $40 to $1,000 for common 3M brand masks that can usually be had for only a few dollars.”
Update (3/27/20): The article has been updated to include additional information about the “survival kits” that included the N95 masks.