The price of protective masks has surged over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. What is the average price for cloth masks and respirator masks currently? This post will analyze the way the price surged and at the current price for masks in the US.
The widespread use of masks is a symbol of a global pandemic. As many countries around the world struggle to flatten the curve, social media is flooded with pictures of people casually wearing masks as they go about their lives – making streets and workplaces look like hospitals.
- Mask shortages have affected almost every country in the world, and the prices have gone up as much as 20x on certain online retailers such as Amazon. The company was forced to start banning vendors for price-gauging on the website.
There were reports of people selling packs of 10-15 N95 respirator masks for as much as $1000, while each mask used to only cost about $10 pre-pandemic. At the height of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortage, Amazon had to cancel many retailers who were not compliant with their pricing policies. The company either deleted their listings or canceled their accounts as a result.
The topic of price gouging during the pandemic was one of the most debated topics of the year. Amazon’s spokesmen claimed that the company was disappointed that people were trying to artificially raise the price of basic needs during a global health crisis. Currently, the price of PPE is still relatively high compared to pre-pandemic times, but it is still affordable. Here’s what we found based on our research:
- Surgical masks can be purchased for $20/50 pieces.
- Anti-dust masks can be found for $15-20/piece.
- Respirator masks with filtration systems are available for $40-50/piece.
Price gauging during the pandemic has affected many countries world-over. Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries during the pandemic, had to open an investigation into the surge of prices on online stores regarding medical supplies and other essentials. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned employers to start buying PPE for workers, and requiring all employees to wear protective equipment while at work. The CDC also recommended mask-wearing for regular citizens in order to stop the spread of the disease.
Pre-Pandemic Vs Current Prices
If you analyze the prices for Amazon’s “Top Sellers” in the PPE category, you can notice packs of 50-100 disposable masks go for $15-20 on average. This still represents a massive surge from pre-COVID-19 times, when the average price for 50 disposable masks used to be as low as $5. However, it is still a decrease compared to the first few weeks of the pandemic, when PPE shortages were rampant.
The price for other medical supplies, such as respirator masks, has surged as well. Respirator masks have a filtration capacity that captures harmful chemicals, such as viruses, from entering the mouth/nose, and only allow clear air particles. The staple of respirator masks is the N95 mask – while it only used to cost $10/mask before the pandemic, the average price of such a mask is now $20-30.
Amazon’s ‘Fair Pricing’ Policy
Amazon implemented automatic regulation, which prohibits new sellers from selling items in a certain category at a higher price than the “recent prices offered” on the website. Amazon calls this the “Fair Pricing Policy”, and aims to stop price gouging by vendors. Amazon has effectively clamped down on thousands of vendor accounts and removed thousands of listings from the website.
E-commerce websites have frequently implemented anti-price-gauging mechanisms during Holiday seasons, such as the Christmas, when vendors would increase the price of items such as toys. Currently, if Amazon vendors start charging excessive amounts for essentials, moderators are likely to intervene and take action immediately.