3M, the world’s leading maker of N95 masks and the largest producer of masks in the United States, said it has enough supplies to meet the increased demand due to Omicron.
“We make all of our masks for the American market in the United States, in our factories in South Dakota and Nebraska,” 3M spokeswoman Jennifer Ehrlich said.
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 industry. This led to a shortage of N95s in the broader market and an opportunity for counterfeit masks to infiltrate the supply chain.
“We’ve seen a 40-fold increase in demand,” Ehrlich said.
During the pandemic, she said 3M more than tripled production and now has the global capacity to manufacture more than 2.5 billion ventilators annually. That includes producing 100 million masks per month in the United States alone.
“We have increased production of N95 enough that it is now available to all customers again, and we continue to supply the N95s that healthcare workers as well as industrial customers need,” Ehrlich said. “There is no longer a shortage of N95s”
Where can you buy 3M N95 masks?
Ehrlich said 3M’s N95 masks are on sale at all major retailers, including Home Depot, Target, Lowes and Menards, and through Amazon’s 3M store. She said Target also sells a separate 3M Advanced Filter Face Mask that is not N95.
All legitimate N95 masks bear the NIOSH label, which means they are approved for use in the workplace by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Ehrlich cautions that 3M’s N95 masks are not intended for use by children.
“It’s designed for adult faces,” she said. CDC guidelines also state that although respirators may be available in smaller sizes, they are typically designed for use by adults in the workplace and have not been tested for widespread use by children.
The CDC has also warned against counterfeit N95 masks. The agency said consumers should beware of telltale signs of a counterfeit product such as misspellings on the mask, claims that the mask is approved for children and the absence of NIOSH tags.
For nearly two years, we have been wearing cloth face masks to protect ourselves from the coronavirus.
But some layers of fabric covering the face proved to be no match for Omicron.
Besides vaccination and boosters, health experts say switching to a mask with a higher level of personal protection is critical to help mitigate the spread of the disease.
A face mask protects against the spread of Covid-19 in two ways: it reduces the risk of the wearer being exposed to the virus and it also protects others around them from being coughed, sneezed, or even just talking.
The effectiveness of masks is determined by filtration, or how effective they are at blocking very fine particles in the air, including viruses and bacteria.
Up to this point in the pandemic, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has encouraged the use of a variety of protective face masks, including well-fitted multi-layered cloth masks, disposable surgical masks, and medical-grade N95 respirators. Properly fitted and certified N95 masks are capable of filtering up to 95% of airborne particles.