2. Demand outstripping supplyExtraordinary action is needed from the federal government because demand so far has been outstripping supply. 3M, for example, has been hiring workers, adding shifts and activating more production lines at plants around the world to churn out more N95 respirator masks, but it’s still not enough.
Having a supply of the masks matters because the masks, when used properly, provide 95% filtration efficiency against certain non-oil-based particles. Health practitioners need the masks to stay safe while treating people who are potentially infected with the virus, but supplies are running low — not only from the prolonged fight against the virus in China but also because of panic buying among regular people.
Just this week, there was news that Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York is reportedly experiencing shortages of masks and other protective equipment.
Ventilators are also crucial to save the lives of people with severe cases of COVID-19. But because of shortages, doctors in places such as Italy have already had to make life-and-death decisions involving people with the virus.
Medtronic announced that it is has doubled the number of shifts that it has manufacturing ventilators at its Galway, Ireland plant. And Bloomberg reports that General Motors is offering to allow manufacturing of ventilators in its closed automobile factories.
However, there are still worries that the pandemic will disrupt supply chains as it spreads — throwing a wrench into both government and corporate efforts.