Health: Keeping Masks at the Ready for the Next Crisis

The Story:

BusinessWeek reports that several manufacturers of N95s and surgical masks have stopped production in recent weeks. As people get vaccinated, and as local and private-commercial mask mandates have been lifted, the market demand for the masks has collapsed. For many this raises the questions: will masks again be scarce at the time of a future crisis? Can something be done to keep the supply chain in place against that day?


One of the unhappy revelations of the spring of 2020 was that personal protective equipment (PPE) could be very hard to find for people outside of hospitals and other established institutional supply chains. There was a period when public health officials were telling non-health-professionals not to wear masks: not because they wouldn’t be useful but because it was feared they were too scarce and had to be reserved for the professionals.

In Pill Form:

Hospitals are reluctant to commit themselves to domestic manufacturers of masks for bottom-line reasons. They cost about 30% more than the masks manufactured overseas. But as we have seen, in a global crisis those overseas supply chains become vulnerable.


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