One year into the epidemic, the disposable, virus-filtering N95 mask remains an iconic piece of protective gear. Continuous shortage Doctors and nurses are forced to reuse their N95s, and ordinary Americans have ruined the Internet – mostly in vain – to get them.
But Luis Arguello Jr. has a lot of N95s for sale – 30 million of them, in fact, run by his family, Demotech, Manufactured in its factories in Miami. He simply cannot seem to find buyers.
After the epidemic revealed a great need for protective equipment, and as China closed its inventory in the world, Demetek, a medical suture manufacturer, entered the mask business. The company invested tens of millions of dollars in new machinery and then fixed a tenure of nine months. Federal approval process This allows masks to be marketed.
But the demand is so sluggish that Mr. Arguello has made preparations to hire 1,300 laborers whom he had prepared for production.
“It’s crazy that we can’t find the people who desperately need them,” he said.
In a more complex disconnect between the laws of supply and demand, many of the nearly two dozen small American companies that have recently jumped into the business of making N95 are facing the abyss – both pledges for the former president Despite, they are unable to crack the market. Donald Trump and President Biden produce “Buy American” and domestic production of essential medical gear.
These businesses have to overcome the buying habits of hospital systems, medical supply distributors and state governments. Many buyers are ready to try a new crop of American-made masks, which are often slightly more expensive than those produced in China. Another hurdle comes from companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google, who banned the sale and advertising of N95 masks in an attempt to prevent professors from changing important medical gear required by frontline medical workers.
There is a need for public health experts and industry officials, an ambitious strategy that includes federal loans, subsidies, and government purchasing directives to ensure the long-term viability of domestic industry critical to the national interest.
“The government needs to call the outsourcing of America’s mask supply: it’s a national security problem,” said Mike Bowen, owner of Prestige Ameritek, A Texas mask maker who has testified about Congress need support Domestic manufacturer.
Drawing on his experiences during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, he said many start-ups were unlikely to survive without systemic changes. “We have seen this film before,” said 35-year-old Mr. Bowen of the industry. “If and when the epidemic is over, it’s going to be a terrible blood bath.”
Partially done by Wartime defense production act, Domestic heavyweights such as 3M and Honeywell have started producing N95 masks over the past year, but the 120 million masks they receive each month in the United States are not satisfying the health sector’s annual needs for 3.5 billion N95 can do. Most of the masks made by big players are given to medical distributors supplying the country’s large hospital systems.
Smaller companies can help fill the gap. Together, 19 companies that have recently been found Federal certification Production of millions of masks a month; Northwell Health, a large hospital chain, is using a total of 300,000 masks a month across its 23 hospitals.
Businesses include Protective health gear, A New Jersey start-up founded by a chiropractor and store display executive struggling to find steady customers, and ALG HealthA lighting company in Bryan, Ohio that produces 1.5 million masks every month, but cannot achieve the final investment required to meet its goal of producing 30 million per month.
Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Biden has made face covering a key component of his plan to contain the epidemic. In one of his Serves first As president, Mr. Biden aggressively directed federal agencies to promote domestic manufacture of personal protective equipment and later to use the DPA executive Order Attempts to encourage government procurement of domestically manufactured goods. Still, none of the half-dozen interviewed for this article said they had been contacted by federal officials.
“I was encouraged by the initial steps of the Biden administration,” said Scott Paul Alliance for American Manufacturing, An industry group. “But the federal government really needs to step up its game and provide certainty to American companies who responded to the national call to action, not only to this crisis, but to those in the future.”
White House Kovid-19 supply coordinator Tim Manning said the administration would announce several new DPA contracts for personal protective equipment in the coming weeks, but would take longer to address larger supply-chain issues.
“One of our priorities in our epidemic response is doing it in a way so that we can ensure that the industrial base that has expanded can be sustained, so we don’t end up in the same position next time,” Mr. Manning said. in an interview.
Companies like United States MasksA start-up in Fort Worth, Texas, which began producing N95s in November, may not last long. John Bylmowicz, a commercial real estate broker who started the company with a friend in the early weeks of the epidemic, said they were disappointed by the lack of interest from hospital chains, long-term care facilities and local governments buying in bulk. .
Although the company’s façade has been certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a department of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mr. Bilamowicz says many buyers are reluctant to try unfamiliar products. Larger hospitals prefer to live with masks that are already in use because new models need to be fitted on staff. But many cost-conscious wholesale buyers prefer to buy cheaper sugar.
One of the more Painful rebellion Came from Tarant County, where Mr. Bealamoise has his factory. Last month the county disqualified its company’s bid as officials wanted to purchase specific Chinese-made models. County officials did not respond to requests for comment.
“We got into this business because we were troubled by America’s dependence on foreign manufacturing and wanted to do something about it,” said Mr. Bialmovic, whose masks sell for $ 2.25 per piece – compared to those made in China Is a few cents more. “When we are making N95s at a competitive price will we be left to die on the vine?”
As they expect intervention from Washington, United States masks and other N95 producers, they said the ability to sell to the public through online retailers such as Amazon will help them stay away.
An infectious disease specialist at the University of California at San Francisco, Drs. Monica Gandhi said that the majority of Americans have started wearing masks and are worried about new variants that will eagerly upgrade. N95s or other types of virus-filtering maskss If they were available.
“Right now, high filtration masks are more important than ever,” she said.
Consumers are having problems with their retail websites. At the moment, anyone trying to buy the N95 mask on Google Shopping or Facebook Marketplace is greeted with a blank page; On Amazon, the discovery of the N95s produces a welder from KN95 mask-making vendors, a Chinese-made counterpart that researchers say is less effective.
Lance Brown, Chief Executive Officer Rhino Medical Supplies, A distributor in South Carolina, is focused exclusively on selling N95s produced by the new generation of American entrepreneurs. Their masks, he said, are superior to those made in China, but their pleas for national pride often fail to keep institutional buyers focused on the bottom line.
Mr Brown is also pushing online retailers to rethink their broader ban on N95 masks. The problem, he said, can be easily fixed by making exceptions to government-certified masks.
“How is it that you can spread conspiracy theories on Facebook, but we can’t sell N95 masks to the millions of Americans who need them right now?” Mr. Brown asked. “I can understand that Facebook does not want to sell masks made by a boy in its garage, but these masks meet strict NIOSH guidelines.”
Google And Facebook He said he has no immediate plans The policies, Based on guidance from CDC. And this World Health Organization There is sufficient protective gear aimed at ensuring health care workers. Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Bielamowicz, for one, has discovered the benefits of a small public exposure. Last month, as he and his partner were contemplating whether to throw in the towel, a local Newspaper columnist Wrote about his afflictions. The company was immediately overwhelmed by orders from school nurses, cancer patients and essential staff, many of whom said they had given up on finding the N95 mask.
Within three days, the company had sold its entire stock of 250,000 masks.