Target has apologized for selling N95 masks - the respiration masks that healthcare workers are advised to wear to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus - to the public, while health care workers across the country experience concerning shortages of personal protective equipment.
The masks were seen at Target stores in Seattle, Washington, a state which has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 outbreak. Photos of shelves stocked with the masks were shared on Twitter, showing that the equipment was being sold for individual use despite medical workers who are treating Covid-19 patients regularly reporting the need for more supplies.
"We heard reports that a @target in Seattle was selling n95 masks," tweeted Washington state Governor Jay Inslee on March 21.
"My staff and others stepped in. Those masks are now on their way to the health care workers who desperately need them."
Target issued an apology on the same day of Inslee's tweet, claiming that the masks were put out for sale by mistake.
"Today in select Seattle stores, N95 masks were available for purchase in error," Target said via Twitter.
"We’re removing & donating them to the WA State Dept. of Health. We’re also reviewing the inventory for additional masks to be donated. Target’s commitment to communities is unwavering & we apologize."
Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only recommends N95 masks for health care workers.
On March 20, Target announced that it will distribute over $300 million to ease the virus's impact, with a focus on added wages, a new paid leave program, bonus payouts and relief fund contributions.