The latest shortages caused by COVID-19 you may not have seen coming

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Shortages. Limited supply. These phrases have come to be associated with the ongoing pandemic.

In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the U.S., items flying off store shelves included toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Consumers then moved to the phase where cleaning supplies and meat were missing from grocery store aisles.

Roughly eight months into the pandemic we are now seeing shortages in lumber, appliances, and aluminum cans.


The owner of Knox Rail Salvage said lumber, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom construction supplies had been hot items during the pandemic. While stuck at home, many were choosing to complete long put-off home improvement projects like bathroom and kitchen renovations. DIY projects are also impacting demand for lumber.

The lumber shortage drove up costs. A board that cost roughly nine dollars this time last year is now going for as high as $21. One Knoxville area builder said demand has stayed high and all of the sudden supply has been cut. He said lumber prices are soaring, which is driving housing prices even higher. According to the National Association of Home Builders the average price of a new home has gone up more than $16,000 since April.


One of the safer pandemic activities has been staying outdoors. Health officials encouraged social distancing and outdoor fun. If you’ve tried to get a bicycle you may have hit a snag. According to The NPD Group, children’s and adult leisure bicycles have seen double and triple-digit sales increases in the U.S. It’s not just outdoor bikes, either. The site reports sales of indoor bikes have also gone up by more than 268%.

Furniture & appliances

How about new furniture and appliances? Some college students moving into dorms come August had trouble finding mini-fridges. Experts say demand has grown as more and more people stay home and need more refrigerator and freezer space while stockpiling food.

A call to furniture website, Wayfair, about delayed patio furniture gave a small glimpse into COVID-19’s impact on manufacturers and warehouses. Shopping on the website is up as more people work from home and either require new furniture for their home office or realize their space needs a new look. Many people chose to avoid in store shopping to avoid the virus.


While more people built up their home offices, the demand for laptops soared, as well. Both working from home and the move to online learning impacted demand. Students going back to school also faced laptop shortages.

Coin shortage

Have you seen signs in store windows indicating credit cards only? That’s because of the coin shortage. The U.S. mint hadn’t been operating at full capacity.

“Business and bank closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coins. While there is an adequate overall amount of coins in the economy, the slowed pace of circulation has reduced available inventories in some areas of the country,” a post on the Federal Reserve website said.

According to the site, the mint began normal operation in mid-June. Federal leaders expected more than 1.6 billion coins to be produced per month through the end of the year. The U.S. Mint put out a Public Service Announcement about the shortage that you can watch here.


Your favorite beer could be impacted, too. Aluminum cans are in short supply as sales of soda increased during the pandemic.


Interruptions in work flow due to social distancing guidelines also impacted meat supply. Several plants had shut down by May or cut back their workforce. Local restaurants felt the impact as prices went up.


Ultimately, some of the shortages came down to worker shortages. More and more people were forced home to quarantine as the virus spread. Supply chains were disrupted with workers out sick or in quarantine while demand for certain items increased. Forbes suggested the next shortage on the horizon may not be something you can buy or live without: Healthcare workers.


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