Lessons Learned from COVID-19

Face masks in China
3M face masks in Shanghai, China.

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

Back in beginning of 2020 when coronavirus first hit mainland China in the city of Wuhan, Chinese cities were running out of face masks.

The shortage eventually hit Chicago’s very own Chinatown, thousands of miles away, as local pharmacies were experiencing the same problem. Families were rushing to buy face masks by the bulk to ship to loved ones overseas.

At the end of Jan. 29, there was only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Illinois and 165 cases nationwide in the U.S. according to the Center for Disease Control.

When the deluge of COVID-19 cases hit the United States, the roles quickly reversed, opening up many discussions about supply chain and dependency on China for manufactured products, such as personal protective equipment. Hospitals and healthcare workers in certain parts of the country considered “hot spots” were running low on PPE, sparking a mad rush for procurement in an effort to combat the quickly spreading coronavirus.

Photo at top: 3M face masks in Shanghai, China. (Photo courtesy Ross Friedman)