One Major Way the Coronavirus is Affecting Construction

The coronavirus has found a way to make an impact on the construction industry in the U.S., but maybe not in the way you would expect.

a hand holding an N95 respirator dontree_m/Getty Images

The impact of the coronavirus is being felt around the world. The disease has affected global markets, complicated international travel and may even lead to the cancellation of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Despite the coronavirus’ prevalence on an international level, the disease has yet to make as much of an impression on daily life in the United States. There is one area, though, in which it has already made a significant mark on several American industries, including the construction industry.

According to a survey conducted by the National Community Pharmacists Association, 40 percent of pharmacists are facing a shortage of respirator masks. While only 32 percent of the pharmacists surveyed said that they think the coronavirus is a significant threat to public health in the U.S., 54 percent said that their patients are worried about the virus. That prompted a run on surgical masks and respirators.

“The news coverage is clearly affecting consumer behavior,” said Brian Caswell, president of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “Pharmacists are divided on whether the coronavirus is a serious health threat, but a strong majority of their customers are highly concerned.”

N95 respirators are required by many construction workers as part of their daily work. According to the FDA, “Most N95 respirators are manufactured for use in construction and other industrial type jobs that expose workers to dust and small particles.” N95 respirators block out 95 percent of airborne particles when worn correctly, making them an effective way to protect workers from breathing in anything harmful.

That effectiveness makes them particularly attractive to anyone concerned about catching an airborne illness. And while the CDC does not specifically recommend public use of N95 respirators to combat disease, that has not stopped a surge in demand for the masks.

One construction supply company in Georgia donated 500 N95 respirators to doctors and patients in need. Now they are left with little stock to sell to construction workers in the area.

“We donated a good portion of our inventory, and then we went to reorder with our supplier, and we got a message that they’re out of stock,” Steve Williams of New South Construction Supply told Fox 5 Atlanta.

While Williams is proud of the company’s donation, he worries how the shortage of masks will impact construction workers in the field.

“More than the profit or the money, we’re concerned about the safety of our workers and our customers, and we definitely want the guys in the field to be equipped with the right equipment,” said Williams.

In response to the shortage, a factory in Georgia that produces N95 respirators is adding shifts and moving to a seven-day workweek to meet global demand, which is likely to further increase until the coronavirus is under control.

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