Masks are still an issue. What is the holdup?

The gist of the article is that we are still struggling to get masks to the front lines. I’ve included pertinent quotes for bypassing the NYT paywall.
This is not a bashing post, just an update and some queries.

I posted yesterday that Cuomo, governor of NY, said that the state had procured 2 million N95 masks. This article said they had to go overseas and pay $4 for what is normally an $0.80 item. They did not specify the source.

Hanes is starting to make masks, but they cannot make the N95’s which are the ones needed in hospitals.

It turns out that the overwhelming supplier of medical supplies or the materials to make them come from overseas, particularly China. I guess that is something we need to address at some point. Brings me back to my point yesterday of stockpiling as assiduously as we do bullets and bombs for defense after this crisis passes.

“Mr. Trump resisted appeals from state and local officials and hospital administrators for more aggressive action, saying he would not compel companies to make face masks and other gear to protect front-line health workers from the virus.”

Does anyone know why?

Don said the other day that making ventilators is not like cranking out hockey pucks. True enough. But are N95 masks that much more complicated than hockey pucks?

“We have calls from doctors and hospitals that are calling us directly asking if we could ship them masks to their houses in desperation, because the masks are being stolen from the hospitals,” said Ronald Reuben, the chief executive of Medicom, a Canadian company that is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of N-95 and other medical face masks.”

“Mike Bowen, whose company, Prestige Ameritech, makes masks in a factory in North Richland Hills, Tex., said that he told officials in the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations that about 95 percent of surgical masks are manufactured outside the United States, including by American companies that moved factories overseas to reduce costs. Mr. Bowen said he had repeatedly told federal officials that American hospitals would be at the mercy of other countries in a pandemic.”

“Aside from sitting in front of the White House and lighting myself on fire, I feel like I’ve done everything I can,” Mr. Bowen said. Recently, Mr. Bowen said, his company has been fielding roughly 100 calls a day from hospitals and others desperate for more masks.”

“Other American companies are finding their supply chains frozen.”

“In its factory in Charlotte, N.C., Strong Manufacturers has three L-shaped machines that are set up to churn out about 70 masks a minute, or roughly 9 million a month.”

“But the company sourced the raw materials for the masks from a supplier in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak started. Now, the goods aren’t coming.”

That’s the update on masks. I thought we were doing better than this. I hope we can get up to speed faster.

14 thoughts on “Masks are still an issue. What is the holdup?

  1. Would you settle for N94 masks?

    N95 is a specification that includes the materials, fit, filtration and flow rate for the masks.

    It would be very easy to make a lot of masks that almost meet the specification, but made from other materials, But with supply chains busted meeting the exact specification is not possible.

    But OSHA specifies N95 masks, not N94s.

    For decades we have obsessed about the cost of healthcare, and getting it down has driven a lot of production overseas. But I guess that there are non-monetary costs to consider in making ourselves that vulnerable.


    1. I’ll settle for whatever the healthcare professionals say they need. Some places are using masks more than once.

      If N94 can come up to speed in a few days, versus a few months for N95, I think that demand would have gone out. NY already took it upon themselves to pay exorbitant prices for overseas sources. With the concentration of some of the most skilled doctors in the world in that city, I am sure many avenues have been tried.

      Either way, supplies are still short. Trump is not invoking the emergency order for some reason or another. Time is wasting and that is something we don’t have the luxury of.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree, but every year I practiced I had to take a day off for OSHA training and if I deviated from OSHA specs any time during the year, it would only take a phone call from a disgruntled employee to put me out of business.

        Imagine if Trump ordered hospitals to accept N94 masks.

        How many seconds would it take for Paul to post that ‘Trump murders health care workers by forcing them to use defective masks’

        Liked by 1 person

        1. A bit of local good news. Rock Church just donated 4000 n95 masks to 4 local Sentara Hospitals. They came from their supplies for the medical missions overseas.

          The staggering amount of masks, gowns, gloves that a major hospital uses is mind boggling. If there were 300 patients in a major hospital, 1000 masks could be gone in a few hours.

          Community efforts, however humble, are socially and psychologically important in my estimation.

          I wonder if anyone is working on sterilizing them for reuse. Or if that is even possible.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. They are pretty durable. But rather than trying to sterilize them and reuse, HC workers could use them longer before discarding as long as they aren’t noticiably wet.


        2. @Tabor

          You and “Paul” need to get a room.

          As to OSHA requirements, the Moron in Chief publicly recommending reuse, so I think that’s OBE.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. OBE? Order of the British Empire is all in could.

            I be learned, and forgotten, more text abbreviations from you. Old age has advantages in that I think I learn something new everyday when in reality it is SSDD.

            HAHA. (Same as ha ha.)

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Sorry Len, my bad, old military lingo: Overcome By Events.

            Generally a heads-up to move on to solving the problem vice exploring “why” or “how”.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. RE: “Does anyone know why [Trump resisted appeals from state and local officials and hospital administrators for more aggressive action to produce or procure N95 masks]?”

    The answer given in yesterday’s task force press conference had several elements:

    • Industry is volunteering to step up production without being ordered to.
    • Some known shortages have occurred because buyers were waiting to be given masks they could actually get on their own.

    • Some buyers have been unable to place orders that conflicted with federal contracts seeking the same available supply. FEMA is now tasked with resolving these demand conflicts.

    • Federal regulations prevented buyers from obtaining N95 masks used in non-medical settings, even though the medical and non-medical N95 masks are identical. These regulations have been relaxed, openning up new sources of supply.

    • Procedures for sanitizing used N95 masks for re-use are being developed.

    Bottom line: there’s a big difference between not having any N95 masks on hand, and having them but knowing you will run out at some point in the future. I’m unable to verify that future demand is expected to surpass forecasted supplies.

    When you hear the word “shortage” you need to make sure you understand how it is being used in context and not merely assume there’s a problem.


    1. Well Cuomo had enough of a problem that they scrambled to find a foreign source for 5x the price.

      If all those things you listed provide masks for the hard hit areas in the next weeks, that will be a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. RE: “If all those things you listed provide masks for the hard hit areas in the next weeks, that will be a good thing.”

        You asked a question. I gave you an answer from the public record.


    2. ” I’m unable to verify that future demand is expected to surpass forecasted supplies.”

      For you personally not needing the masks is one thing. When the professional health care workers say they are running low and need more, that is a fairly good indicator that FUTURE supplies need to be ramped up. And not just for this occurrence but for the next. And the next, and the next.


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