3M, a leading global manufacturer of N95 masks and the largest maker of masks in the United States, said it has enough supply to meet the increased demand due to Omicron.
“We manufacture all of our masks for the U.S. market in the United States, in our factories in South Dakota and Nebraska,” said 3M spokeswoman Jennifer Ehrlich.
When the coronavirus outbreak reached the United States two years ago, it created an urgent and overwhelming demand for N95 respirator masks in the healthcare sector. This led to a shortage of N95s in the wider market and an opportunity for counterfeit masks to seep into the supply chain.
“We saw an increase in demand 40 times,” Ehrlich said.
During the pandemic, she said, 3M more than tripled production and now has the global capacity to manufacture over 2.5 billion respirators a year. It includes the production of 100 million masks per month in the United States alone.
“We have increased N95 production enough so that they are now available to all customers again, and we continue to provide the N95s needed for both healthcare professionals and industrial customers,” said Ehrlich. “There is no longer a shortage of N95s”
Where to buy 3M’s N95 masks?
Ehrlich said 3M’s N95 masks are on sale at all major retailers, including Home Depot, Target, Lowes, Menards and through Amazon’s 3M store. She said Target also sells a separate advanced filtering face mask from 3M that is not an N95.
All legal N95 masks bear a NIOSH label, which means they are approved for use in the workplace by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Ehrlich warned that 3M’s N95 masks are not intended for use by children.
“They are designed for adult faces,” she said. The CDC’s guidelines also state that although respirators may be available in smaller sizes, they are typically designed to be used by adults in the workplace and have not been tested for widespread use by children.
The CDC also warned of counterfeit N95 masks. The agency said consumers should beware of revealing signs of a counterfeit product, such as misspellings on the mask, claiming the mask is approved for children and the absence of NIOSH marks.
For almost two years, we have become accustomed to wearing face masks in fabric to protect ourselves from coronavirus.
But a few coats of fabric covering the face turn out to be no match for Omicron.
In addition to being vaccinated and boosted, health experts say it is crucial to switch to a mask with a higher caliber of personal protection to help mitigate the spread.
A face mask protects against the spread of Covid-19 in two ways: It reduces the risk of the user being exposed to the virus and also protects others around them from being exposed to coughing, sneezing or just talking.
The effectiveness of masks is determined by filtration, or how effectively they can block very fine particles in the air, including viruses and bacteria.
Up until this point in the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called for the use of a variety of protective face masks, including well-fitting multilayer cloth masks, disposable surgical masks and medical-grade N95 respirator masks. Properly fitted and certified, N95 masks are capable of filtering up to 95% of airborne particles.