Will America ever be able to make enough N95 respirators for its citizens?

The N95 respirator is a type of disposable face mask approved and regulated by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The N95 respirator is similar to the KN95 masks from China. The N95 respirator has been widely used in the medical and industrial fields. 

The N95 respirator or mask has the capacity to filter 95% of the airborne particles. It can filter tiny dust and smoke particles and some liquid decontaminants.  In recent times, the N95 respirator is considered as one of the effective protective devices against the coronavirus.

There are different types of N95 masks and they are available in different brands. 3M is one of the trusted N95 manufacturers not only in the US but also in other countries. 3M manufactures NIOSH-approved N95 respirator that is widely used in the medical and construction industries. There are 3M N95 masks that are designed for surgical purposes and there are also N95 masks for mining and construction workers.

The 3M N95 respirator is available in different types and models. Some of the N95 masks from 3M include the 3M N95 respirator 1860, 3M  8511 N95 respirator, and 3M 8210 N95 respirator.

Delivering antiviral protection, the N95 respirator has become essential not only for health and medical workers but also by ordinary people. But with the increasing demand, are there enough N95 respirators to be used by everyone?

The shortage of N95 respirator

Since the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a constant high demand for the N95 respirator. Now that some shops are slowly opening and people are starting to go out again, the demand for the N95 respirator and other protective devices keeps on increasing. Yet, the supply remains low and not enough for everyone.

Before the pandemic, you can easily find the N95 respirator online. They are available for sale on Amazon and other e-commerce platforms. You can even buy them in bulk or wholesale but now, you can't easily find the N95 respirator online. The N95 respirator is available on some trusted websites though but the supply is not enough. 

The N95 respirator is considered as a disposable face mask but because of the shortage, hospitals and other medical institutions are forced to reuse the N95 respirator. The governments have issued guidelines on how to reuse the N95 respirator. It has also allowed some N95 masks that are not NIOSH-approved to be used for emergency situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. Some KN95 masks are also allowed to be used in hospitals and some medical institutions. These types of masks from China are carefully screened to make sure that they deliver the same level of protection as the NIOSH-approved N95 resppirator. 

Aside from the shortage of N95 respirators, the government needed to address the increasing number of counterfeit N95 respirators. There has been an increasing number of this face mask online. The counterfeit N95 respirator has no NIOSH marking on the packaging and usually comes with ear loops instead of headbands. 

To date, the government, Amazon, and 3M have already shut down thousands of online stores for selling counterfeit and overpriced N95 respirators. Lawsuits were also filed to some manufacturers.

Why can’t America make enough N95 respirators?

It is very clear that there has been a shortage of N95 respirators in the United States. However, 6 months into the coronavirus pandemic, the shortage of N95 respirator persists. How is it possible? Will America ever be able to make enough N95 respirators for everyone?

People were disappointed by how the national government handles the N95 respirator shortage. Some mentioned that the government lacks a coherent plan on how to increase the supply of N95 masks or N95 respirators. 

For this year alone, USA public health officials say that there is a need for 3.5 billion N95 respirators. But, the country is still very far from its target. Domestic production of the N95 respirator is expected to reach over 160 million per month this fall, which is still very far from the 3.5 billion requirements. 

Sadly, the US is relying too much on Chinese suppliers when it comes to the N95 respirator. The country is importing more PPEs than ever and still fall short of its needed number of N95 respirator. 

Aside from relying too much on Chinese N95 respirator manufacturers, the US administration has been focusing more on big firms like 3M and Honeywell. The administration has big hopes with 3M to increase its domestic production of N95 masks. But even this big firm failed to deliver. The government also has no plans to help small N95 respirator manufacturers to fill in the massive demand. 

Right now, because of the limited availability of the N95 respirator, healthcare, and medical frontline workers are reusing the N95 respirator in their respective workplaces. Decontamination processes are being observed and the public is also encouraged to wear reusable masks such as cloth masks. The kids as well as the adults are also using low-quality face masks and face shields to provide them at virus protection. 

The N95 respirator, being considered as one of the best protective devices against COVID-19, has become a necessity, not only in the US but in other countries around the globe. People are still hoping, while the whole world is waiting for the vaccine, that enough supply of the N95 respirator will be available for everyone.

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