Coronavirus: 3M says it has doubled production of N95 respirators

The Maplewood company says its sending half a million to Seattle and New York.
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Minnesota-based 3M has said it has doubled its production of N95 respirator masks and is now producing almost 100 million a month.

CEO Mike Roman announced Sunday that the Maplewood company has ramped up production of the highly sought-after masks since the COVID-19 outbreak, of which 35 million a month are being produced in the U.S.

With a consistent shortage of masks being reported across U.S. hospitals and clinics, companies like 3M are being increasingly relied upon to keep facilities stocked.

Of the 35 million being produced in the U.S. every month, 90 percent are designated for the healthcare industry, with the rest deployed to other critical workers during the pandemic including energy, food, and pharmaceutical companies.

Similar deployments are underway from its factories in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

It's also sending 500,000 masks from its South Dakota facility to the COVID-19 hotspot areas of New York and Seattle, which have seen the most cases of any cities so far.

Roman says the plan is for 3M to double its production again so it's making 2 billion a year within the next 12 months.

"Like everyone, I see the pleas from our heroic doctors, nurses and first responders for the respirators and other equipment they desperately need," Roman said. "I want people to know we are doing all we can to meet the demands of this extraordinary time and get supplies from our plants to where they’re most needed as quickly as possible."

While 3M is trying to increase the facemask supply, there appears to be a problem getting it distributed to the areas that need it.

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that with the federal government leaving it up to states to get their own equipment if they can source it faster, states have been competing against each other.

He says as a result that bidding wars have driven the price of masks up to $7 per mask, saying: "I will contract with a company for 1,000 masks. They’ll call back 20 minutes later and say the price just went up because they had a better offer."

A 3M spokeswoman told the Washington Post that it hasn't changed the prices of its masks, but "the company cannot control the prices dealers or retailers charge for 3M respirators."

Minnesota's director of infectious diseases Kris Ehresmann acknowledged on Sunday that the state was also competing with other states for masks, and said just because 3M is a Minnesota company it doesn't mean it gets masks sooner.

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