Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

US supply of N95 masks dwindles amid surge in COVID-19 cases

The rise in coronavirus cases across the US is again threatening the supply of masks for health care workers, according to a report.

After an initial shortage at the start of the pandemic, many hospitals and health care workers started stockpiling the highest-standard N95 masks.

But record levels of new infections have left many health care workers again resorting to re-wearing the vital protective item — and many health care authorities fearing they will run out, according to the Wall Street Journal.

New Mexico said last week that nearly 90 percent of its hospitals were reusing N95 masks under emergency guidelines.

And in Michigan, where the recommendation is to have a three-month supply ready, nearly two-thirds of health systems are reporting less than a three-week supply of masks and other protective equipment, the paper said. Some are reporting less than a week’s supply.

“We would really like to beef up our stockpiles, but volume is high for everyone, so you can’t,” Jeff Wagner, the supply chain manager for the network of seven major health care facilities in the Wolverine State, told the WSJ.

The biggest domestic manufacturer of N95s, 3M Co., is producing almost 100 million of the masks a month, more than four times what it made before the pandemic — but said it is still not enough.

“We have more demand than we can supply,” 3M chief executive Mike Roman told the WSJ.

“We see demand from fighting the pandemic to continue in 2021 and beyond.”

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