This North Carolina partnership is attempting to close the N95 respirator supply gap

The new respiratory disease called COVID-19, which is caused by a new virus, was first reported at the end of 2019. This is a new species of coronavirus, which tends to cause very mild respiratory illnesses. But, this new species seems to be more deadly and dangerous, with over 1 million deaths around the world. A lot of countries have been deeply affected, including the United States, with economic and healthcare problems in addition to the devastating effects of the virus on people’s health.

The healthcare system of most countries has collapsed since the beginning of the pandemic, and one of the most concerning situations has been the shortage of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). The pandemic took most of us by surprise, and most countries weren’t prepared for this much demand in medical supplies, particularly N95 masks.

To help alleviate this problem, many organizations and companies have taken measures to avoid and prevent the shortage of N95 respirators. In this article, we’ll talk about the partnership in North Carolina that is attempting to close this supply gap.

New partnership in North Carolina: the potential solution for the supply gap in N95 respirators

Seeing the shortages that, even though have started to ease, are still affecting healthcare workers, a team of experts in different areas decided to unite in a collaboration based in North Carolina.

The health insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, has stated that they feel like they’re part of the healthcare system in North Carolina and that it was their responsibility to help. In a collaboration with North Carolina state researchers, Freudenberg Performance Materials, UNC Health, the NC Healthcare Strategic Partners, and the NC Medical Society, along with the seed money from Blue Cross Blue Shield, they’re working to help healthcare workers work safely.

This collaboration is working towards producing 200 thousand N95 masks per month. The machinery has already started to arrive, and along the North Carolina Nonwoven Institute, they’re working to develop a cost-effective fabric for N95 masks.

The initiative will eventually turn out 2 million N95 masks a year, to decrease the price and provide them to doctors, nurses, and all the healthcare staff in the state at cost. This comes as a solution to the problem of healthcare workers paying up to 5 times the price for medical supplies.

N95 masks: a brief explanation

Also known as N95 respirators, these are considered to be the best disposable face mask for virus protection. They can protect anyone who uses them against the coronavirus better than any surgical or reusable face mask, and that’s why they’re so important and scarce right now.

The term N95 comes from a classification of respirators established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH. The institution regulates and tests respirators to make sure they’re safe to be used in work settings where respiratory hazards are present, like mining or construction.

In their classification, NIOSH names respirators according to their filtration rate and resistance to oil. N95 means that the mask isn’t resistant to oil, indicated with the ‘N’, and can filter out at least 95% of all airborne particles. This makes N95 masks effective for protection against non-oil based particles, like smoke, dust, or the flu virus.

For their great antiviral properties, N95 masks are being prioritized for healthcare workers and first responders right now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges the general public to use reusable cloth masks in public settings and to avoid exposure to the virus as much as possible to ease the workload of healthcare workers.

The shortages in the United States

Even before the pandemic hit the United States, experts were already warning that measures had to be taken with time. Shortages of medical supplies and PPE were imminent, and many countries around the world were already suffering the consequences, with healthcare workers and first responders working hard without the proper protection.

The pandemic began to hit the USA hard around March, and that’s when the Department of Health and Human Services declared that the emergency stockpile only had about 1% of the supplies needed by the country. In April, the government invoked the DPA (Defense Production Act), a law that was first implemented in 1950.

This law, used in many occasions like wars and natural disasters, is used to prioritize the domestic supply of certain necessary products. In this situation, the law would be used to prioritize the domestic production and importation of medical supplies and PPE, particularly N95 masks, which are necessary to face the pandemic.

Under this law, the government can direct private companies to increase their production and prioritize the United States when it comes to the supplies needed for the pandemic. Companies like 3M started to do their part in this situation, but the efforts seem to not be enough.

The government had the goal to reach 300 million N95 masks in their emergency stockpile by the fall, but this was never reached. Shortages were reported throughout the country during the summer, when states started to reopen and social gatherings started to happen again, with cases rising as well. Experts calculate that these shortages will still be happening during 2021 and 2022.

If you’re looking for PPE, you can find face shields, KN95 masks, and 3M N95 masks, like the 3M 8511 and 3M 8210 for sale online. The options to buy them in bulk or wholesale, as well as in a smaller size for kids, are available on many reputable websites. Make sure you’re protected with only high-quality products. 

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