Supply of N95 masks is running low in many states as coronavirus infections surge across 79% of the country and the US reports a record 102,000 new cases
- States such as New Mexico, Montana, and Wyoming are reporting low supplies of N95 respirator masks
- These states are also seeing record numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients
- Federal officials have been building up the national stockpile, but even 3M, the biggest manufacturer of N95s in the U.S., is struggling to meet demand
Hospitals and health departments in many states are once again facing a looming shortage of protective gear – especially N95 masks – amid surging case rates across the nation.
In an unwelcome bout of deja vu, parts of Michigan, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming are all running low on N95s, according to the Wall Street Journal.
And states that were hit hardest in the first wave of the pandemic in the US, including New Jersey, New York and California, are telling hospitals to stockpile protective gear and brace for another deluge of coronavirus cases.
Even manufacturers report that they’re struggling to keep up with demand, despite ramping up production.
Reports of shrinking supplies of masks come as the US reports a record-high increase of more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day.
Many of the same states that are seeing record coronavirus hospitalization rates are reporting their hospitals only have enough N95 masks to last a matter of weeks or days (file)
In New Mexico, nearly all (95 percent) hospitals are already reusing their N95 masks to conserve their stockpile of PPE.
New Mexico saw a record high number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 yesterday at 401, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
The state set a record for new cases with 1,136 new infections recorded Tuesday.
It’s a similar story in Michigan, where health officials recommend each hospital have a 90-day supply of masks stockpiled at any given time, but two-thirds of facilities don’t even have enough to keep them protected for the next three weeks, according to the WSJ.
‘We would really like to beef up our stockpiles, but volume is high for everyone, so you can’t,’ Jeff Wagner, supply chain manager for MidMichigan Health, a chain of seven hospitals in the state, told the WSJ.
‘The N95s are really the most challenging.’
According to the Michigan health department, MIdMichigan has only 0-6 days worth of N95 masks.
Michigan’s current hospitalizations are also at an all-time high with 2,215 people undergoing inpatient treatment for COVID-19 as of yesterday.
Wyoming and Montana, each of which are seeing some of the steepest per capita case increases in the country, are both bracing to have to ask health care workers to start reusing their PPE again.
When states such as New York that were hard-hit in the spring, they turned to the federal government, hoping for help from the emergency stockpile.
But the national stockpile was caught out. Millions of masks – 85 million, approximately – had been deployed during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
Even 3M, the largest producer of N95 respirators in the U.S., says it is struggling to keep up with demand for the gold standard face protection (file)
Restocking was deemed an urgent matter, but it never really happened.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) had only about 12 million N95 masks in the stockpile in March.
It’s since been scrambling to catch up, signing contracts with suppliers, promising to build up a reserve of 500 million N95s, and distributing 1.5 million to nursing homes facing surges.
Still, it also had to alleviate pressure on strained supply chains attempting to supply masks to it, states and private hospitals and buyers.
Even 3M, the largest U.S. manufacturer of N95 masks is struggling to keep up.
’95s are still in high demand. We have more demand than we can supply,’ CEO Mike Roman told the WSJ.