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N95 Mask Production Won't Meet Demand for Another Year, 3M Predicts

By Rich Smith – Apr 2, 2020 at 3:01PM

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Mask makers are ramping production as fast as they can -- and it's still not fast enough.

American industry is enlisting to fight in the war against coronavirus.

One of the leaders in this fight so far has been industrial giant and N95 mask-maker extraordinaire 3M (MMM -1.60%). As The Wall Street Journal reports today, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 3M was manufacturing about 50 million masks per month, which was sufficient to meet the needs of industrial workers and medical professionals all around the world. Some of those masks are still going to industrial workers. However, 90% of mask production is now going to healthcare workers to help combat the ongoing pandemic.  

N95 masks and coronaviruses on a red background

Image source: Getty Images.

And that's nowhere near enough.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS), the U.S. alone now requires 300 million N95 masks to be produced every month. To help meet demand, 3M and a half dozen smaller companies that make the masks already have doubled their production to nearly 100 million.

The problem, however, is that only about 35 million of these masks are made in the U.S., and the countries where the rest are produced naturally want to use them locally to protect their own healthcare workers.

In its continuing effort to help meet demand, 3M says it is working to double its global N95 mask production numbers once again to 200 million units monthly. Combined with additional production by companies such as Honeywell (HON -1.82%) and Owens & Minor (OMI -4.14%), this should get us to the 300 million total units that DHHS says we need to meet domestic demand -- but not for another year.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends 3M. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

3M Company Stock Quote
3M Company
MMM
$110.50 (-1.60%) $-1.80
Honeywell International Inc. Stock Quote
Honeywell International Inc.
HON
$166.97 (-1.82%) $-3.10
Owens & Minor, Inc. Stock Quote
Owens & Minor, Inc.
OMI
$24.10 (-4.14%) $-1.04

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