US mask makers wind down production, lay off hundreds

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Manufacturers of masks and medical gowns in the U.S. have started to see a huge drop in sales, leading some to end-production and issue layoffs, according to The New York Times

About two dozen U.S. companies began making masks last year when demand was high. Now, at least three companies have stopped making masks and medical gowns in recent weeks, according to the Times, while others have significantly reduced their production. One mask producer, Virginia-based Premium-PPE, has laid off most of its 280 employees, according to the report. 

While some of the reductions are linked to the CDC's updated guidance that fully vaccinated Americans can unmask indoors, industry experts told the Times that domestic manufacturers can't compete with less expensive supplies from China. 

For example, Merrow Manufacturing, a textile company in Massachusetts that entered the medical gown market in 2020, has seen a drastic reduction in the number of hospitals reaching out for supplies. The company sold reusable gowns for $18, but similar products are available from producers in China for $6, according to the report.

Hospitals and health system leaders have called on the U.S. to prioritize medical supply manufacturing, with some committing to sourcing their personal protective equipment domestically. Others are saying the nation's supply chain isn't ready to handle another pandemic.

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