Demand for respirator masks up, amid coronavirus concerns


(CNBC News) – As the number of coronavirus cases continue to go up worldwide, protective respirator masks are increasingly harder to find.

In Aberdeen, South Dakota, at one of its largest manufacturing facilities, 3M has added robots to its assembly line all in an effort to meet the surge in demand for its face masks.

“We immediately ramped up production in this facility. We have capacity to do that and we did that immediately,” explained Andy Rehder a 3M Plant Manager, “Really from a more standard 5 day to a more 7 day week with additional equipment we’ve been able to bring in and turn on.”

The most popular mask is the N95 Respirator, which has become the symbol of the fight against the coronavirus.

From the streets of Beijing, soccer games in Japan to Milan’s fashion week, health care workers and citizens around the world are using the mask to reduce the risk of infection.

According to the CDC the respirator filters 95 percent of airborne particles.

With demand so high it’s increasingly difficult to find or order one on e-commerce sites like Amazon.

60 percent of large scale pharmacies have essentially run out, according to the HHS.

“We’re seeing outbreaks develop in new countries every day,” said Nicole McCullough with 3M Global Leader of Safety and Health, “But even the countries where there isn’t a widespread outbreak are working really hard to prepare right now, in case they do have that situation.”

As the risk of a U.S. outbreak rises, workers in Aberdeen are determined to produce as many respirators as possible.

“We know what we have to do and we know we have to keep our numbers up and we know we have to keep ourselves safe,” explains Tim Hofer a 3M production operator, “..and we need to put out great quality and that’s what we come out here to do.”

Health experts are not recommending that everyone use a protective mask in public.

The World Health Organization does recommend you use a mask if you’re coughing or sneezing.

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