At a time when N95 respirator masks are in critically short supply across the country, a large stack of them appeared at a Target in Washington state — and now it's causing PR fallout for the retail giant.
On Saturday, Seattle reporter Ann Dornfield tweeted a picture of the face masks on the shelves at a local store, noting shortages of the item at hospitals:
The post was retweeted hundreds of times, leading to numerous angry comments and calls for the retailer to donate the masks to hospitals.
Target replied to the tweet Saturday evening with the following statement:
Today in select Seattle stores, N95 masks were available for purchase in error. We’re removing & donating them to the WA State Dept. of Health. We’re also reviewing inventory for additional masks to be donated. Target’s commitment to communities is unwavering & we apologize.
The company has also received some backlash for the apology itself, which it has posted multiple times in response to critical tweets in the thread started by Ann Dornfied.
The oversight may not be limited to Seattle, with other users tweeting pictures of similar displays at stores in Annapolis, Maryland, and San Jose, California:
As of this writing, Target has not addressed these tweets.
N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) have been in critically short supply amid the coronavirus pandemic, with doctors and nurses being forced to reuse masks or turn to items like bandanas instead.
This poses a dire situation, as the coronavirus has been found to hit healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic especially hard — with CNN noting a number of doctors dying or ending up in critical condition because of COVID-19.
Manufacturers are racing to meet demand, with a Friday report saying that Minnesota's own 3M has doubled global production of the N95 over the past two months.