With the increasing demand for medical-grade N95 and KN95 respirators that can provide healthcare workers a 95% level of protection against COVID-19, supplies are quickly running out and forcing some medical staff to wear surgical masks instead. 

A shortage in protection

The scarcity of N95 respirators– the only approved type by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for medical use, and KN95 masks which shares the same level of protection as the N95, are putting more healthcare workers at risk according to the Centers for Diseases and Prevention (CDC). Some healthcare workers in smaller facilities are even wearing the same mask for a month to cut corners while some rely on Chinese-made KN95 respirators despite not yet being approved for medical use by the NIOSH. 

Counterfeit N95 and KN95 respirators that originated from China are prevalent in today’s market prompting federal officials to advise hospitals and healthcare facilities to purchase their supply straight from U.S. manufacturers. This rampant use of counterfeits that aggravate the shortage has resulted in over 17,000 medical professionals losing their lives due to COVID-19.  

Addressing the need

Though acceptable alternatives, surgical masks can only offer around 30% protection from airborne transmissions during instances of COVID-19 patient intubations. And with the demand for N95 respirators increasing by 500 to 1000 percent from last year, large US companies that manufacture NIOSH-approved N95 respirators cannot keep up. Fortunately, more producers like The USA Mask Company are stepping up to provide healthcare workers the necessary personal protective equipment they need when treating COVID-19 patients. 

Before the pandemic, the U.S. was importing around 50% of PPEs from China. When the pandemic emerged in early 2020, major players in the country including 3M and Honeywell increased their production by mid-year but were not able to reach the government’s 3.5 billion supply target. 

With the new administration signing an executive order to develop a sustainable supply of PPEs for healthcare workers across the country, medical professionals and advocacy consumer groups can expect more available N95 and KN95 respirators in the market to hopefully reduce the number of fatalities and COVID-19 cases in the health sector.  

Learn more about N95 and KN95 respirators by visiting The USA Mask Company homepage.