The nationwide shortage of N95 respirators needed by healthcare workers and others during the coronavirus pandemic shows no indications of letting up, according to an article in today’s Washington Post.
The newspaper cites a lack of inter-industry cooperation on N95 production, the Trump administration’s use of the Defense Production Act to force companies to make ventilators but not N95s, and 3M’s efforts to boost production that still may not meet demand as fall and winter approach.
Maplewood, Minn.-based 3M (NYSE:MMM) has invested $100 million to expand domestic production of respirators from 22 million to 50 million per month, according to the Post. The company expects to launch a new production line at its Aberdeen, S.D., plant in October.
Since January, 3M has doubled N95 respirator production globally and is on track to produce 2 billion respirators globally by the end of 2020, according to spokesperson Tim Post.
“We continue to increase production in the U.S. We expect to produce 95 million N95 respirators per month by October, nearly three times as many as in April, or a rate of more than 1 billion respirators per year,” Post added in an email to MassDevice. “Even with 3M’s accelerated production combined with capacity from other manufacturers, the demand for N95 and other respirators continues to exceed supply for the entire industry and will for the foreseeable future.”
Honeywell spokesperson Eric Krantz said in an email that the company began N95 production in April at two facilities in just five weeks , a process that could typically take up to nine months.
“By the end of this year, our mask production rate will be 60 times larger than what it was in April,” Krantz added. “For competitive reasons, we do not disclose specific production numbers.”
Owens & Minor said on its website that it has “invested heavily to expand manufacturing capacity” of personal protective equipment, with most PPE manufacturing located within the U.S. and the Americas.
“To date, these efforts have enabled the expansion of manufacturing capacity for N95 masks by 300%, as well as expanded manufacturing capacity for ear loop and surgical masks and for surgical gowns, compared to 2019 levels,” the company said.
This article has been updated with comments from 3M and Honeywell.