Survey: Most distributors have masks in stock for Mass. businesses

May 22, 2020Boston Business Journal, Council in the News

May 22, 2020
Boston Business Journal
By:Greg Ryan  – Law and Money Reporter 

With many Massachusetts businesses set to reopen next week, demand for masks will be high. Fortunately, nearly two-thirds of distributors surveyed recently as part of a Massachusetts High Technology Council initiative said they have them available now.

The survey was part of a presentation Friday by consultants from Bain Capital and Bain & Co., including Bain Capital co-chair Steve Pagliuca. The two Boston firms have been researching how employers can best limit the spread of Covid-19 on behalf of the High Tech Council.

As part of its plan to reopen the Massachusetts economy, the Baker administration is requiring all employees in workplaces to wear a mask or face covering. On Monday, offices outside of Boston can open with limited capacity, and hair salons, pet groomers and select other businesses can begin welcoming in customers that day. On June 1, Boston offices can open.

Of 26 distributors, there are 17 within 500 miles of Boston that had masks in stock as of earlier this week, according to the survey. Most of those companies had general-use masks available, though a handful had higher-grade varieties with U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

Companies with masks in stock include Massachusetts firms Central Equipment Co. Inc., Conlon Products and Lane Printing & Advertising. Of those without masks in stock, a third have a backlog of less than one month. 

Personal protective equipment was scarce when the coronavirus outbreak took hold in Massachusetts, and manufacturers have been working ever since to pump up the supply. The administration has sought to help manufacturers that don’t typically produce such equipment to shift their operations to do so. It has also set up a searchable database of equipment providers.

According to the Bain survey, a vast majority of the distributors get at least 75% of their mask supply from China, with nearly half getting all of their masks from the country. That suggests that if China were to cut off exports to the U.S., the availability of masks in Massachusetts would be threatened.About a fifth of the distributors had only started working with their manufacturer in the past few months, according to the presentation.

For the complete presentation, including a list of distributors with masks available and recommendations on employer screening and office ventilation, visit the High Tech Council’s website.

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