Diversified manufacturer 3M (MMM 0.72%) has increased production of its N95 face masks, anticipating higher demand due to the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the N95 mask is the most common type of the seven types of particulate-filtering facepiece respirators, filtering at least 95% of airborne particles.

A person holding a N95 face mask

Image source: Getty Images.

Flexible and responsive

The company says the Aberdeen facility has the capability and experience to adapt production to demand. Previous significant demand increases have related to SARS, H1N1, and Ebola outbreaks as well as the Japanese Fukushima nuclear emergency.

The Aberdeen plant has over 650 employees, and has increased production from a five-day schedule to a seven-day schedule, according to the plant manager, as reported by CNBC.

By responding to the current crisis, the 3M facility is living up to its stated mission, which is to be the site of choice for safely producing products such as the N95 masks "that deliver results, protect people and improve lives."

Coronavirus task force updates  

Vice President Mike Pence spoke over the weekend as the new head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He said that while there are currently 40 million masks available, the government has contracted with 3M, and will be contracting with other manufacturers, for the production of 35 million more masks per month. It's not clear if that was in reference to N95 masks.

The vice president specified that the priority for increasing the supply will be first for patients, and second to protect healthcare providers. At the press briefing, he noted: "The average American does not need to go out and buy a mask," echoing the CDC recommendation that healthy people need not wear face masks for protection from respiratory diseases.