Eclipse mania sends Americans scurrying to find safe glasses
By BRADY McCOMBS
SALT LAKE CITY — Eclipse mania is building and so is demand for the glasses that make it safe to view the first total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. in 99 years.
Lines are forming, prices are rising and shelves are emptying as people scurry to obtain special eyewear to view the sun Monday as it is obscured by the passing moon. Complicating the rising demand from last-minute shoppers was a recent recall by Amazon that forced libraries and health centers around the country to recall glasses given away or sold.
For stores that still have the glasses, prices are spiking. The ones still for sale on Amazon were going for steep prices Friday, around $11 to $12 each.
Nancy West, a 67-year-old retired nurse from Utah, was delighted to be among the final people to get glasses Thursday before the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City ran out.
“I will never see a total eclipse again because I will not live long enough,” West said. “It’s an opportunity to understand how our universe works and what part I play in that.”
Amy Watts and her 13-year-old son, Ethan, waited in line for an hour at the planetarium so they could have a safe way to watch the historic moment.
“We heard the frenzy of getting ahold of some eclipse glasses so we thought, ‘What the heck, we’ll give it a shot,'” said Watts, a health coach. “We actually scored some.”
Doctors around the U.S. launched campaigns this summer to warn people that they can damage their eyes staring directly at the sun, even the slimmest sliver of it. They advised people to get special eclipse glasses. The American Astronomical Society put out a list of 15 approved manufacturers.
Doctors say people who don’t have the glasses can look indirectly with a pinhole projector — which can be made from a shoebox — that casts images of the eclipsed sun onto a screen at least 3 feet away. NASA also has a webpage listing safety tips for how to view the eclipse.
One of the approved manufacturers selling the special glasses, American Paper Optics, has sold 45 million pairs over the last two years — 10 million since mid-July, said John Jerit, president of the Tennessee-based company.
Among their customers was Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which had to recall 8,000 glasses purchased from an unidentified third-party vendor and given out at a county fair last weekend. The center was offering people the chance to exchange the faulty glasses for new, certified ones from American Paper Optics.