At the beginning of the year, the COVID-19 infection started to spread to many countries outside China, where the first case was reported in December of last year. This new species of coronavirus was thought to cause mild flu-like symptoms at first, just like most coronaviruses. But quickly severe cases were starting to rise where complications started to happen in multiple organs, not only the respiratory tract.
Around March, cases started to rise in the United States, and the consequences were already showing. Healthcare centers were collapsing, economic problems started to arise, and medical supply shortages were already happening. These shortages were being predicted and warned about by experts since before the pandemic hit the USA, but very little measures were taken on time.
Panic-buying became a big trend, and even though some of the items running out weren’t as useful, like toilet paper, others were extremely valuable. Hand sanitizer, gloves, face shields, and all sorts of medical-grade face masks were quickly disappearing from the shelves. From every 3M N95 mask model, like 3M 8210 and 3M 8511, to surgical face masks and KN95 masks, people were buying in bulk and wholesale.
But, one thing people always look for in their products for sale is the label that reads “MADE IN THE USA”. Why is that? Let’s analyze this together.
Why masks made in the USA are superior
A lot of the personal protective equipment needed to face the coronavirus pandemic is made outside the USA, even though extreme measures have been taken for American manufacturers to increase significantly their N95 mask production. Although these companies have ramped up their domestic supply, China is still making more than half of the world’s N95 face masks.
This has played a part in why the United States has experienced shortages, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. It may seem like a good thing that China is producing so many face masks so quickly, but this comes at a cost to human rights.
According to an investigation made by the New York Times, a lot of China’s companies aren’t working under the best conditions. They claim that the companies are using forced labor by Uighurs, a Muslim minority in the country, under a government program. These masks eventually reached the United States, specifically a medical supply company located in Georgia.
This isn’t the first instance in which poor working conditions have been reported on factories in China. By purchasing MADE IN THE USA N95 masks you’ll be supporting American companies so they can keep producing and supplying Americans during a time in which shortages are leaving people unprotected.
A brief explanation on N95 masks
N95 masks are very necessary right now. They are a very particular type of disposable face mask, and it’s much more effective for antiviral protection than regular medical or surgical masks. They are the best virus protection equipment right now, and that’s why shortages are a very dangerous situation.
N95 respirators fall under this classification according to NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). This institute is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and their job is to avoid work-related injuries or illnesses. Many industries are set in environments in which workers are exposed to respiratory hazards, which lead to serious health issues.
N95 masks filter out 95% of all airborne particles, therefore protecting against the inhalation of particles like dust, smoke, or bioaerosols, like the flu virus. The coronavirus is another virus that can be filtered effectively through these masks, that’s why they’re so important for healthcare workers in particular, as well as high-risk people. These people include those with comorbidities, immunocompromised people, and older people, which can develop severe symptoms.
The United States needs to have enough stock of these medical supplies to make sure our frontline workers are safe while doing their job. But sadly, shortages did happen and can be here to stay according to some experts.
Problems with shortages in the USA
According to the Department of Health and Human Services in March the USA only had around 1% of the total of medical supplies we would need to face the pandemic once it started to rise inside the country. The most coveted item among these supplies was undoubtedly the N95 respirator, which was the scarcest among these products.
The invoking of the Defense Production Act by the government back in April was a measure that was presumably taken too late into the game, according to some experts. Even though important American manufacturers did their best to help their nation during this difficult time, professionals in the matter reported that the measure wasn’t aggressive enough and that shortages were imminent. And apparently, they were right.
The best way to help our healthcare providers is to protect ourselves. There are many options online for reusable face coverings. You can even find them in a smaller size for kids. Anyone who uses the correct protection is already helping so much in this situation. Remember to stay safe, and you’ll be keeping your community safe as well.