Many companies that made N95 masks during height of pandemic now facing financial collapse

Maia Anderson - Print  | 

Many companies that shifted to producing N95 masks during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic are now facing financial collapse, shutting down production and laying off workers, NPR reported June 25. 

A combination of the widespread vaccination campaign and the return of cheaper, Chinese-made N95 masks has dramatically cut into mask sales, according to NPR

Some businesses that stepped up to make the masks when supply from China was cut off in early 2020 told NPR they feel abandoned by the U.S. government due to the lack of incentive for domestic manufacturing of personal protective equipment. Before the pandemic, less than 10 percent of the N95 masks used in the U.S. were made domestically, NPR reported. 

A company called Armbrust American purchased a facility near Austin, Texas, bought machinery and hired more than 100 workers to make N95 masks during the pandemic, NPR reported. The company had to apply for a complicated and lengthy certification to make the masks, and within six months it was able to make a million masks per day, both surgical and N95. 

Now, the company told NPR it can only keep going for another four months at most before completely shutting down. 

At the start of 2021, Armbrust and 27 other small businesses that have been making masks formed the American Mask Manufacturer's Association. Lloyd Armbrust, the founder and CEO of the company, told NPR that 28 members of the association are going to go out of business in the next 60 to 90 days. Five of the members have already stopped production. 

Mr. Armbrust added that "when they go out of business, it's not like we turn off the lights and mothball these machines. We send them to the dump. That capacity that we created goes away." 

Now, the association is calling on the Biden administration to stop the influx of Chinese-made masks and increase domestic manufacturing. 

President Joe Biden recently signed legislation that included $10 billion for investments in additional manufacturing capacity, extended contracts for PPE and more, NPR reported. 

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