Face Mask Materials in Short Supply: No Magic Factories

Mish

The epidemic has driven up demand for material in N95 filters but materials are in short supply.

No Magic Factories

Given the Critical Component of Protective Masks is in Short Supply ramping up production to meet demand is not possible.

Nonwoven polypropylene has never been so popular.

The industrial fabric is a critical component of the sophisticated face masks that protect medical workers from the new coronavirus. As the virus spreads around the world, those face masks are in short supply. Now nonwoven polypropylene is, too.

Monadnock Non-Wovens LLC has been getting more than 100 calls and emails a day asking for huge quantities of nonwoven polypropylene. Some callers have offered luxury vacations to Monadnock employees to fulfill orders.

Some customers are asking the Mt. Pocono, Pa.-based company for up to 200 tons of the material. The single machine on Monadnock’s production line for the mask-filter material makes about 1.5 tons a day. The company recently started a test run of a second machine and will add a third in the coming weeks that will triple output to around 30 tons a week.

“Everyone thinks there is this magic factory somewhere,” HPK’s president, Michael Liberatore, said. “You can’t call up and order a million. It’s not how it works.”

CDC Q&A

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend that people wear face masks unless they are sick and need to be in public.

Q: Why?

A: Because the CDC is covering its ass knowing full well there is insufficient supply.

Schools Shut in Seattle Area

In the Seattle area, Schools Shut Down as Coronavirus Spreads.

A suburban Seattle school district launched the farthest-reaching school closures in the U.S. Thursday in an attempt to contain the coronavirus, directing more than 23,500 students to stay home for up to two weeks in a last-resort step that districts across the country are considering.

The number of deaths in Washington state rose to 11 Thursday and confirmed cases jumped to 70 from 39 a day earlier, prompting companies including Microsoft Corp., Amazon Inc. and Facebook Inc. to encourage employees in the region to work from home. Ten of those fatalities have been in King County, where Seattle is located.

Rush Hour Traffic Jam Vanishes

The above explains what I noted before in Tweets of the Day: Seattle Rush Hour Suddenly Vanishes.

Proposed Takeover of Life Care Center in Kirkland WA

The Wall Street Journal reports Nursing Home at Center of Washington Coronavirus Outbreak Target of Criticism

Washington state officials are considering taking over a nursing home tied to 10 deaths in the Covid-19 outbreak after the facility’s owners drew criticism from local officials and families for spotty and at times chaotic dissemination of information.

At one point, a woman whose mother died at the facility this week of still-unknown causes said she was later contacted by a nursing-home staffer to say her mother was alive and well.

The facility has been trying to get more protective gear, according to the head of a local health-care trade group. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday the state was seeking more gear from federal emergency stockpiles.

No Supplies Thus CDC Recommendation

Once again we can put a spotlight on the CDC's cover its ass recommendation against wearing face masks.

There are not enough masks to go around.

The CDC's recommendation is self-serving.

Still No Test Kits Either

More than 100 residents were in the facility when the outbreak was first confirmed a week ago. By Friday, authorities said 69 residents were still inside and 15 residents had been transferred to local hospitals in the prior 24 hours.

Life Care, one of the largest U.S. nursing-home operators, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Life Care said in a statement Wednesday it didn’t know how the virus got into the 190-bed facility, and that it hadn’t been provided test kits.

Meanwhile, There's a State of Emergency in New York and and four new deaths in the US with 90 new US cases.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (50)
No. 1-13
Greggg
Greggg

Diverting it from the automotive industry, the biggest user, is the least of the problems.

thankyoumrdata
thankyoumrdata

Mish, there aren't enough masks to go around, and there's neither good evidence nor biological plausibly to make us believe that wearing masks in public will actually curtail the spread of this.

If you want to hang it on the CDC that America is not prepared for this, that's fine and probably correct. But not having excess capacity to put a useless mask on every American is not really the way in which we're not prepared.

Meanwhile, hospitals like mine are starting to have trouble having enough masks for routine health care. I have a fellow doctor friend who works for a veteran's hospital in Connecticut where they had a whole pallet of boxes of masks stolen.

I'm a big fan and mostly always agree with you and have no love for our government bureaucratic public health leadership. But I don't think people should be wearing masks in public, and it's not because the CDC is self serving.

Maximus_Minimus
Maximus_Minimus

I bet, the polypropylene for the filter is not made in the USA, but arrives at the factory in granules, likely from friendly places such as India. So the bottleneck goes deeper. It is unbecoming to have a supply chain in America, when you can just wait at the trough for a new supply of freshly printed fiat.

Jack77
Jack77

I'm seeing an ad on this page for a N95 mask, at bestogoods dot com. However, the material they list is Microfiber (MELT-BLOWN).

A fake?

Maximus_Minimus
Maximus_Minimus

Masked men enter a bank.
Everybody panics, then calms down, when it turns out to be just an ordinary robbery.

tokidoki
tokidoki

The CDC intends to survive this. Your survival in the meanwhile is entirely optional. It's not the meek that will inherit the earth. It's the ones wearing masks.

Dubronik
Dubronik

Let's just send/mail all used masks back to the CDC..

thankyoumrdata
thankyoumrdata

I agree that it can come across as condescending and that bears further thought on my part.

I also agree that an infected patient can wear a mask and that will reduce their spewing droplets when they cough. An ironic benefit, not complaining though. However, most people, like tokidoki, and want the mask as a magic amulet, not to protect others. Who cares what the science says. Science is a Caucasian plot.

msurkan
msurkan

EVERYONE needs to wear masks, IMMEDIATELY! Even if they are super cheap ones.

It's not because masks are great at blocking viruses from entering your mouth or nose. The reason to wear cheap masks is because they are terrific at vastly reducing the infection radius of infected people. They block all the large particles from coughs and sneezes, and even many of the particles from normal exhalation. Infected people wearing cheap masks shed far less virus than they would with no mask.

Now this is the really important thing... We have no idea who is infected. Most infected people don't even know they are. Most infected are asymptomatic (in fact, that's what makes nCoV impossible to stop). This is why EVERYONE must wear a mask. For it is only when EVERYONE is wearing a mask that we can be sure there aren't infected people walking around inadvertently shedding virus everywhere.

Why not at least ask the public to wear cloth masks or bandannas? We would all be far safer if EVERYONE simply tied a ripped piece of bed linen over their faces when out in public than going with nothing. Even cloth will vastly reduce the infection radius of people who are virus carriers, and since there is no way to know if you are infected EVERYONE needs to wear a mask.

It is utterly unconscionable that authorities aren't even taking this most basic of actions to make it mandatory to wear a homemade cloth mask. Concerns over conserving supplies for first responders wouldn't be impacted in the least.

sangell
sangell

I saw a story on NHK ( Japanese TV) about how they've turned a homeless shelter ( they have them in Japan too) into a mini factory turning out cotton fabric face masks. You don't need more than scissors a sewing machine and some elastic bands to make them.

Carl_R
Carl_R

Note: I am an engineer, and definitely not a doctor, so take the following for what it's worth. I'd appreciate any comments from doctors who happen to read it:

I have for the last couple of years been reading a lot of medical sources with regards to aging. One thing that happens as you age is that your white blood cell count decreases. Worse, many of those that you have are specifically committed to fighting existing diseases, leaving fewer T Cells which the body can train to fight a new infection. In particular, there are infections that the body can never eliminate, such as herpes and chicken pox, and every time the body encounters them, it trains more white bloods to battle them.

When you engage in fasting, the body runs short of critical amino acids, and so it turns to autophagy, looking around for cells that aren't needed, and taking them apart. One type of cell that it takes apart are some of the white blood cells that are already trained. Once the fasting is over, the body replaces them with new, untrained white blood cells. In the process you rejuvenate your immune system, and end up more untrained cells, making your body better prepared to fight a new, unknown infection.

I based these conclusions largely on reading the work of Valter Longo at UCLA, who recommends periodic 5-day fast-mimicking diets. His daily diet is about 500 calories, with very low protein, and very low simple carbohydrates. The lack of sugars and simple carbs makes the body think it is fasting, and the lack of proteins forces the body into autophagy. Meanwhile, taking in a small amount of complex carbs and fats makes it easy to do, and eliminates many of the problems of full fledged fasts. He has a company, Prolon that sells pre-packated meal kits, but I've always just used normal foods in the same ratio of fats and carbs. For me a daily diet would include 1/2 a walnut, 2 celery sticks with a one oz packet of guac, a can of plain vegetable soup, 1/4 cup of steel cut oats, and a fresh vegetable dish, say 1 cup of butternut squash diced and coated with 1 tbl of olive oil, then baked, with salt/pepper/rosemary, or perhaps a cup of Bok Choy, stir-fried in a tablespoon of olive oil with garlic and ginger.

The only thing I can say for sure is that the five day fast is no big deal, and that I always feel good afterwards. Will it help me have a mild case of the coronavirus? I hope so, but I can't be sure. I may do another one starting tomorrow, though. I'm also going to be doing aerobic exercise every day until this is over to get my lungs in the best possible shape.

Ossqss
Ossqss

Tuberculosis is measured in micrometers, coronavirus in nanometers. Size does matter.

"CDC does advise health care workers working with SARS patients to wear a special mask called an N-95 respirator. But even these masks offer limited protection from coronaviruses. The name of the mask says it all. The “95” means the mask, if properly fitted—and that “fit factor” presents a big if—can filter out particles down to 0.3 microns 95 percent of the time. (A human hair is roughly 100 microns in diameter.) Human coronaviruses measure between 0.1 and 0.2 microns, which is one to two times below the cutoff."

msurkan
msurkan

EVERYONE needs to wear masks, IMMEDIATELY! Even if they are super cheap ones.

It's not because masks are great at blocking viruses from entering your mouth or nose. The reason to wear cheap masks is because they are terrific at vastly reducing the infection radius of infected people. They block all the large particles from coughs and sneezes, and even many of the particles from normal exhalation. Infected people wearing cheap masks shed far less virus than they would with no mask.

Now this is the really important thing... We have no idea who is infected. Most infected people don't even know they are. Most infected are asymptomatic (in fact, that's what makes nCoV impossible to stop). This is why EVERYONE must wear a mask. For it is only when EVERYONE is wearing a mask that we can be sure there aren't infected people walking around inadvertently shedding virus everywhere.

Why not at least ask the public to wear cloth masks or bandannas? We would all be far safer if EVERYONE simply tied a ripped piece of bed linen over their faces when out in public than going with nothing. Even cloth will vastly reduce the infection radius of people who are virus carriers, and since there is no way to know if you are infected EVERYONE needs to wear a mask.

It is utterly unconscionable that authorities aren't even taking this most basic of actions to make it mandatory to wear a homemade cloth mask. Concerns over conserving supplies for first responders wouldn't be impacted in the least.


Global Economics

FEATURED
COMMUNITY