Now is not the time for old notions like comparative advantage that may have been effective during times of free trade. Masks made in the United States are being exported to Canada and Latin America and masks made in China are being imported into the United States. Current supplies of masks, gowns and gloves are being diverted to hospitals and emergency personnel and to the nations’ stockpile.
The time to stockpile emergency supplies is in times when they are not needed. Meanwhile, at the population level and two months into the coronavirus problem, members of the public are not able to secure masks and gloves. Suppliers are not sending them to retailers and retailers are diverting them to hospitals. Until the general population is able to secure basic personal protective equipment (PPE), the virus problem is not going away. Reopening the economy and not manufacturing PPE in sufficient amounts is going to destroy the world as we know it.
People can’t stay home. They are going from store to store looking for ways to protect themselves, their parents and children, only to find themselves frustrated time and time again. For those business owners who are wondering what to do if we come out of this in this future, think of ways to produce the things we need now.
If a ventilator can be made from a breast pump or a hose and timer, there must be a better way to do what we are doing.