U.S. Needs Billions of New Masks to Combat Coronavirus. Feds Say It’ll Take Up To 90 Days to Approve New Mask-Making Facilities.

“America is suffering from a shortage of almost everything it needs to combat the spread of COVID-19. Hospital beds, ventilators, gloves, and gowns are all in short supply.
That’s particularly true of the N95 masks that help medical professionals avoid catching and spreading the virus as they tend to patients. The N95 designation refers to the ability of these masks to filter out 95 percent of airborne particles.

In early March, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said that the country’s stockpile of N95 masks was enough to meet about 1 percent of the three billion masks we would need during a true pandemic.”

“government regulations are stifling the ability of manufacturers to set up new N95 mask production facilities—handicapping the private sector’s ability to respond to the current crisis.”

“The production of N95 masks is regulated by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Prospective makers of N95 masks must submit detailed written applications to NOISH, and send finished products to its Personal Protective Technology Laboratory for testing. NIOSH staff must also personally inspect new manufacturing sites before they’re allowed to start pumping out masks.

Chisholm says regulators have told the Open PPE Project that getting agency approval could take anywhere from 45 to 90 days.”

“3M, one of the largest makers of N95 masks, says that it is producing 35 million respirators per month in the U.S. and that within 12 months it plans to double global production capacity to 2 billion masks a year. It also says it is exploring coalitions with other companies to expand mask production further.

Honeywell, another major mask manufacturer, claims it has more than doubled its mask production, according to The New York Times.

That’s a lot of masks, but nowhere near enough to meet the current demands of the country’s medical sector, let alone the demands of other essential workers and volunteers who are out in public right now, potentially dealing with sick people.”