The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns supplies of N95 respirators can become depleted during pandemics. Signs are here that, due to the coronavirus, this may already be the case.
Prestige Ameritech was producing 600,000 masks each day and already struggling to meet demand. Then came calls from the Hong Kong government and airport with their own large orders, according to The Washington Post.
Similar reports have come from other parts of the U.S.:
- A Georgia factory is adding shifts and moving to a seven-day workweek to ramp up production of medical masks.
- A business that makes masks in San Francisco that normally sells a few thousand in a month received an order for 100,000 from Dubai.
- The shortage is already driving up the cost of N95 respirators.
The best advice, if you have employees who regularly use N95 respirators, would be to make sure you have a back-up supplier. If you don’t have a back-up supplier, it may already be too late to get one.
The CDC has guidance to conserve N95 supplies during a shortage:
- Use engineering and administrative controls to minimize the number of employees who need to use respirators
- Use alternatives to N95 respirators – other classes of filtering facepiece respirators, for example
- Implement practices allowing extended use and limited reuse of N95 respirators, and
- Prioritize use of N95 respirators for employees at highest risk.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a U.S. Senate committee on Feb. 25 that there were 30 million N95 respirators in the nation’s emergency stockpile.
When asked whether the U.S. currently has enough N95s in stock, Azar said no, because healthcare workers would need 300 million masks in the event of an outbreak.
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