Ever since the coronavirus pandemic made its unwelcome presence felt, products have been disappearing from store shelves. From toilet paper to hand sanitizer, many goods we take for granted have been tough to find for long periods.
Thankfully, many of these products are now available again in abundance. But others that once seemed plentiful are suddenly scarce.
Following are some products in short supply right now due to the pandemic.
1. COVID-19 vaccine
In a perfect world, there would be enough COVID-19 vaccine that we all could rush out and get vaccinated today. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we do not live in a perfect world.
The effort to create, test and distribute a vaccine for the disease caused by the coronavirus has been nothing short of heroic. But there still is only so much vaccine to go around, which has led to rationing. For now, high-risk groups are getting the medicine first.
OK, this just seems plain weird. Yes, you would expect things like disinfectant wipes, face masks and household bleach to be red-hot commodities during a pandemic. But Grape-Nuts?
This shortage comes down to a simple supply-and-demand issue we have seen a lot during the COVID-19 crisis. People want their Grape-Nuts, but providing the product is tougher than you might imagine.
Kristin DeRock, Grape-Nuts brand manager, told USA Today in late January that making the wheat-and-barley breakfast staple involves “a proprietary technology and a production process that isn’t easily replicated, which has made it more difficult to shift production to meet demand during this time.”
Good news, though — Post Holdings, the parent company, now expects to ship the cereal at full capacity by the middle of March.
We don’t often think of blood as a “product,” but it is when people need it. And when lives are on the line, blood suddenly becomes more precious than gold.
Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has created a crisis for blood banks in many places. A coalition of blood banks said as recently as mid-January that the pandemic “continues to cause disruptions in blood collections and unprecedented fluctuations in the supply and demand for blood products.”
So, if you can give blood, plasma or platelets, please do. As an added bonus, your donation may net you a free coronavirus antibody test. For more, check out “How to Know If You Have COVID-19 Antibodies.”
The high seas are one place the virus will have a hard time finding you, assuming you don’t end up on a cruise ship. But sailing out to your watery paradise has gotten tougher during the pandemic.
Boat sellers throughout Florida report waiting lists for new watercraft. Scott Ritter, who sells new boats at Ingman Marine in Port Charlotte, Florida, told the local newspaper last month that new orders could take four to six months to be delivered.
Lack of key supplies coupled with a surging demand once again is the source of the problem.
5. New cars
Being trapped inside for nearly a year probably has you itching to hit the open road. But if such plans rely on finding a new car, you may have to keep those dreams in neutral.
Japanese automakers Honda Motor and Nissan Motor, for example, expect to sell less of their products this year due to a global shortage of semiconductor chips. The chip-making slowdown — yes, due in part to the pandemic — means inventory will not meet demand.
Honda and Nissan expect to sell a combined 250,000 fewer cars in their current financial year. In an online press briefing, Seiji Kuraishi, Honda’s chief operating officer, said:
“Popular models that sell well were hit hard by semiconductor shortage. We needed to swap around and adjust production plans. But that wasn’t enough.”
Things are expected to improve in the second half of 2021.
6. Xbox consoles
Dedicated gamers might be forgiven for wondering aloud, “Pandemic? What pandemic?”
After all, millions of folks spend countless hours in their living room or basement playing video games, blissfully unconcerned about the world outside.
But a little cloud is floating into that gaming utopia: A Microsoft representative told The New York Times in late January that supply constraints could keep new Xbox consoles in short supply through at least June.
7. PlayStation 5 consoles
So, you’re brokenhearted over the Xbox shortage when you have a lightbulb moment: “I’ll just get a PlayStation 5 to tide me over!”
Unfortunately, the same supply constraints bedeviling Microsoft are also making life difficult for PlayStation manufacturer Sony.
Don’t panic, gamers. The world outside is less frightening than you think. Honest.
8. Rural homes
Has the risk of living in a crowded city during a pandemic left you considering fleeing to the boonies? You are not alone.
Millions of Americans have suddenly warmed to the charms of country living. The number of homes for sale in rural areas nationwide plunged a record 44.4% year over year for the four weeks ending Jan. 21, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. The number of homes for sale in suburban areas fell 38.4% over the same period.
Those numbers compare with a far more modest 16.9% dip in urban neighborhoods. In a Jan. 29 announcement, Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather said:
“Homes in rural and suburban areas remain popular as the pandemic and remote work continue to motivate buyers to prioritize indoor and outdoor space over commute times and urban amenities.”
So, new homes and rural homes are vanishing fast: Perhaps it makes sense to simply stay home and renovate your current abode.
Ah, if only it were so easy to escape the long arm of the pandemic. COVID-snarled supply chains — and heavy demand from consumers — have caused lumber supplies to fall. As a result, lumber prices are rising close to record highs.
10. Cat food
The world went to the dogs in 2020 — literally. Families and individuals cooped up in their homes suddenly decided they wanted canine companionship, which created shortages of adoptable hounds in some parts of the country.
Now, however, a new pet-related shortage has emerged. Stores are finding it difficult to keep cat food on their shelves.
From Pennsylvania to Connecticut and North Carolina, feline food is disappearing from stores. Some say the February cold snap that impacted parts of the country is responsible, but others are pointing the finger of blame squarely at the COVID-related production problems.
Finally, one of the oldest forms of transportation — the beloved bicycle — has suddenly become one of the scarcest.
Sales of adult leisure bikes soared 121% early in the pandemic, and the wheels came off the supply of new bikes as a result.
In mid-September, Jimmy Revard, co-owner of The Bike Line in Indianapolis, told Bicycling magazine:
“If a customer were to order a new bike today, the earliest we would likely receive it is December and maybe even as late as May.”
Things haven’t improved much since then. The bike and parts shortage is expected to last — brace yourself — until possibly 2022.
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