N95 mask makers ramping up US production

American companies, including 3M and Prestige Ameritech, are investing in expansions to produce more N95 masks domestically, according to The Wall Street Journal

Before the coronavirus pandemic, medical-grade masks were largely made abroad. When global infections grew earlier in the year, countries and health systems were competing for the personal protective equipment and struggling to meet demand. 

In response to the pandemic, government officials have called on U.S. companies to boost production at home. 

3M, the largest producer of N95 masks in the U.S., already doubled its mask-making capacity earlier this year, but realized it needed to ramp up production even more. In the 90 days preceding May 31, the U.S. used 140 million N95 masks, according to government estimates cited by the Post, well above the capacity of domestic suppliers. 

The company now is working to more than double its capacity again and overcome bottlenecks in the U.S. supply chain. Some investments include converting a facility where mask-fabricating machines are made into a temporary mask factory and setting up more automated mask-making machines. In total, 3M has invested more than $80 million to boost N95 mask production since the pandemic began, according to the Journal. 

Prestige Ameritech, a Texas mask company that hospitals recently acquired a stake in, said it is working to ensure that the U.S. is in a better position to respond to the next pandemic. 

Despite the boost in mask production, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that there won't be enough N95 masks domestically until this winter. 

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