Home Depot has ordered all 2,300 of its stores in North America to stop sales of N95 masks to try to free them up for those on the front lines of the coronavirus emergency response, the company said on Wednesday.
The announcement came on the same day that President Trump said that the federal government’s stockpile of personal protective equipment had nearly been depleted by the states.
The demand for masks, gowns, face shields and gloves has skyrocketed during the spread of the virus, which has killed at least 4,726 people and sickened more than 209,000 in the United States.
The frantic competition for supplies has resulted in a number of high-profile episodes of hoarding and price-gouging. It has drawn scrutiny to retailers that sell personal protective equipment, commonly known as P.P.E.
The N95 respirator, a type of mask that protects against airborne droplets from sneezes or coughs, is among the most sought-after supplies.
“We stopped restocking stores a couple weeks ago to prioritize shipments for hospitals and first responders,” Sara Gorman, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, said in an email on Wednesday night. “As an extra precaution, we locked them down with a stop sale beginning last week.”
Ms. Gorman said that the company had donated millions of dollars in P.P.E. equipment and redirected shipments of N95 masks to hospitals, health care workers and emergency responders across the United States.
Home Depot was not the only major retailer to redirect supplies because of the crisis.
“Lowe’s is currently delivering essential items, such as respirators and other protective gear, to hospitals nationwide by working with national health care supply distributors to allocate product where it’s needed most,” the company said on its website.
A Lowe’s spokeswoman said in an email on Thursday morning that the retailer had stopped selling N95 masks and was donating them to hospitals.
During an appearance on CNBC last week, Mike Roman, the chief executive of 3M, which makes N95 masks, expressed concern over some retailers continuing to sell protective gear.
“It’s disappointing when you see that, because we’re trying to redirect everything to health care workers,” he said.
Amazon has restricted the sales of some medical supplies, but not all of them.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Last month, Target apologized after a shopper in the Seattle area shared on Twitter a photograph of store shelves filled with boxes of N95 masks, which the company said was an error. Washington State was an early epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.
“We’re removing & donating them to the WA State Dept. of Health,” Target wrote on Twitter. “We’re also reviewing inventory for additional masks to be donated.”