3M doubles output of N95 respirator masks amid coronavirus outbreak
March 23, 2020
MINNESOTA (From news reports) -- Minnesota-based company 3M has doubled its production of coronavirus-protecting N95 respirator masks over the last two months - to a rate of more than 1.1 billion a year, or almost 100 million a month, according to a report.
"This pandemic is affecting us all, and we are doing all we can to support public health and especially our first-responders and those impacted by this global health crisis," chairman and CEO Mike Roman said, according to Street Insider.
"We are mobilizing all available resources and rapidly increasing output of critical supplies healthcare workers in the United States and around the world need to help protect their lives as they treat others," he added.
In the US, 3M currently churns out over 400 million N95 respirators annually. It also manufactures them in Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, according to the news site.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday sent federal Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar a list of supplies -- including 3 million N95 masks -- needed by early April to keep the city's first responders and hospitals equipped.
The industrial-strength masks are usually worn by drywall workers and painters to protect themselves from fine airborne particles. The N95 designation means they can block at least 95 percent of particles in the air.
On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said new legislation will allow tens of millions more protective masks to reach health care workers, but it remained unclear whether total production will meet the demand, according to the Washington Post.
New legislation provides manufacturers of N95 masks protection against lawsuits when selling to health care workers, Pence said.
The change means 3M will be allowed to sell 420 million masks a year to the American health care sector, he said, according to the newspaper.
Robert Kadlec, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at a recent Senate hearing that the US could need 3.5 billion N95s during a serious pandemic, the paper reported.
Medical workers in some parts of the country have had to reuse masks or even improvise their own amid shortages caused by unprecedented demand and the shutdown of Chinese factories.