Coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in the United States over the last few weeks, with the total number of infections surpassing the 10-million mark and new daily cases on the cusp of exceeding 200,000. Consequently, many healthcare facilities across the country are now experiencing new shortages of N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that's much needed for staff to stay safe. The surge in infection rates and scarcity of N95 masks has left manufacturers like 3M struggling to keep up with the soaring demand.
A Heavy Strain on Our Healthcare System
As a result of the N95 mask shortage, numerous medical facilities are rationing and even reusing masks. Those not currently dealing with the shortage are having trouble securing more equipment for the near future. Unless this is addressed, it's a problem that will hit close to home for all of us.
To put this in perspective, almost two-thirds of health systems in the state of Michigan report only having less than a three-week supply of various PPE for medical staff. The staff's health department recommends having a 90-day supply on standby. Essentially, that means the majority of clinics and hospitals in this state are short by 77% of the suggested supply.
Meeting the Demand as Coronavirus Cases Rise
The shortages are expanding to other regions of the U.S. despite face mask manufacturers ramping up production. 3M is on track to produce roughly 100 million masks per month in the U.S. — that's four times the amount the company was producing prior to the pandemic. And it's still not enough.
"N95s are still in high demand," Mike Roman, a Chief Executive at 3M, explained to The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview. "We have more demand than we can supply."
Other N95 makers are trying their best to help meet that demand. Companies such as Harley, Makrite, and BYD all have NIOSH-approved N95 masks that are readily available for distribution. Honeywell Internation is also making 20 million N95 masks a month in the U.S, and WellSpan Health, a Pennsylvania-based hospital network, just received approval to start making 500,000 N95 masks this month with a local manufacturer.
Other PPE Shortages
Besides N95 masks, experts have also identified that frontline healthcare workers will soon start experiencing a shortage of nitrile gloves. Currently, there's a global shortage of these synthetic rubber gloves by more than 200 billion. They're becoming hard to find right now already because they're needed in practically every coronavirus situation that medical facilities encounter.
Indudstry insiders speculate that the looming PPE shortages could be partially caused by internal bureaucracy. It's no secret that hospital networks are filled with "red tape," and these can facilitate bottlenecks that only allow one or two people in each organization to make purchases of this essential equipment.
What Can You Do to Help?
If you take away anything from this article, let it be this: Please refrain from purchasing N95 masks. They are supposed to be reserved for our country's medical frontline workers during this dire, stressful time.
We are well-aware of the fact that N95 masks are perceived to deliver superior coronavirus protection. But they need to be in the hands of those that need them the most — the medical staff that are saving the lives of our families and friends.
Besides this, face masks can certainly give you adequate protection from COVID-19. It really comes down to fit and layering. Your face-covering option should fit snuggly but comfortably. It should cover both your nose and mouth. And the more layers of fabric, the better. Want a refresher on why fit and layering matter most for face mask protection? Check out this previous post of ours.
Also, contrary to the notorious Duke University study, neck gaiters are a viable face mask protection option. Since this study was conducted, the University of Georgia and Virginia Tech conducted their own investigative experiments into these versatile tubes of fabric. Both renowned academic institutions found that multi-layered neck gaiters can effectively reduce aerosol transmission by over 90%.
Last but not least, please stay tuned about our new products! We have a new face mask filter device in the making that can filter up to 90% of particles. We know that times are tough right now. But by uniting against the coronavirus pandemic and saving supplies for our frontline healthcare workers, we can beat this crisis.
Do you want to distribute affordable, durable face mask protection that kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria? Let's talk!