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Mask shortage affecting construction industry

The global shortage of face masks due to coronavirus fears is affecting the construction industry, where masks are required for certain jobs.

YORK, Pa. —

The rush to prepare for the coronavirus is causing a national shortage of face masks, and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a global “chronic shortage” last week. The shortage is affecting the construction industry, where masks are required for certain construction and remodeling jobs.

Working with materials such as drywall, brick, wood and glass creates dust that can be dangerous to breathe. 

Face masks, including the small-particle-blocking N-95 mask, are not effective at preventing the spread of coronavirus among the general population, according to health officials.

Yet people are buying them out of stock at stores across the country, including Rick’s Home Center in Red Lion, starting with the N-95 mask.

“The regular dust mask, pollen, sanding, dust, all that, they were the next to go,” said Lee Hunter, the store’s electrical department manager. “For those who are actually working on that type of thing, they need that.”

LeRoy Jones of York has been renovating a building he owns.

“I try to be careful when I`m working in dust and things of that nature,” Jones said. “But particularly I`m using insulation so I always wear a mask to try to not get that into my lungs.”

An employee at the Home Depot where Jones was buying insulation said they had been sold out of masks for weeks. Many stores don’t know when they’ll be able to restock.

“I have quite a bit of work to do so if there`s going to be a shortage, it`s a concern of mine,” Jones said.

Jones said running out of masks wouldn’t stop him from doing the renovations; he plans to just wear a handkerchief.

RELATED: "Stop buying masks," officials urge amid national shortage

Health officials are asking the public not to buy masks, so they can go to those who need them.

“'Our priority is making sure that the highest risk health care exposure is health care workers have appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment],” said Dr. Nancy Messonier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory diseases on a CDC press call.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide respiratory protection, like masks, for working involving harmful dust, smoke or spray.