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Tucson medical supply store seeing more mask demand, supply chain pain

Tucson Safety & Medical Supply owner Jerry Long has to manage his stock of N95 and KN95 masks.
Posted at 9:26 PM, Jan 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-16 00:42:14-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Jerry Long has been selling masks long before the pandemic began.

His store, Tucson Safety & Medical Supply changed locations since then, but the demand for masks has remained high.

Long says there’s been a spike of interest since Thanksgiving, and that’s only grown as the Omicron surge leads more people to look for high-grade masks like N95s or KN95s.

“They’re seeing so many of their friends get sick, or worse,” Long said.

Long’s store still has N95s and KN95s in stock, but he is managing how many customers can buy. He says he’s rarely allowed a customer to buy more than a 20-count box or two at a time.

“We’ve had a couple of people say ‘Yeah, I wanna get a bunch of ‘em. I’m gonna put ‘em in my pickup truck and sell ‘em on the corner,’” Long said. “I don’t want the [price] gouging… We’re not selling large, bulk to people. ‘Cause I wanna spread the availability out to everybody in the community.”

But while business is good, the supply chain isn’t.

Long says there are still orders of masks backordered from last February. Some shipments ordered several months ago are trickling in, but now with a much higher shipping cost.

Long says shipping costs have “skyrocketed” even since last winter.

“The shipping cost will go into effect when they ship it to us. So the shipping costs are unknown until we get it and we get the invoice,” he explained. “Very frustrating and hard to work on our budget, hard to work on our pricing.”

Those costs have forced Long to charge more for the masks in his store.

He is working through the supply chain headaches and has even extended the store’s hours, however, in order to keep his community safe.

“We’re here for the public,” Long said. “I’m hoping that more people will take the precautions to reduce this transmission.”