While the Biden administration has tapped the Defense Production Act to further push the increased production of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for healthcare professionals all over the U.S., there is still a growing concern about the shortage of medical-grade N95 and KN95 respirators in the market today.
The issue is exacerbated by how more COVID-19 variants of concern (VOCs) are emerging all over the world that even European health officials have sounded off the alarm on stricter mask protocols. Countries like France, Austria, and Germany have already implemented the strict wearing of FFP2s or the N95 respirator variety in the U.S., for individuals who are in public transport or while in grocery stores.
With the recent emergence of new and more contagious COVID-19 variants such as the B.1.1.7 from the United Kingdom, the B.1.351 from South Africa, and the P.1 variant from Brazil, new face mask mandates were set by the Biden administration including the wearing of masks in all federal buildings, airports, and other transportation facilities. Health experts have already recommended CDC-approved KN95 respirators– which also offers a 95% level of protection as the N95 as its top choice, followed by three-ply surgical masks, then fabric masks.
Biden’s call to fast-track the production of American-made N95 respirators also addresses the proliferation of counterfeit and sub-par face masks and respirators that are being sold in the market that may offer more danger to users than provide protection. Early in February, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seized over 11 million China-made counterfeit N95 respirators in over 12 states.
The development also prompted more American mask producers such as The USA Mask Company to step up and seek N95 certification from the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) not only to meet the demand for hospitals across the country but to also allow the public to have the same level of protection for the COVID-19 an its VOCs.