N95 masks, also called N95 respirators, are named for their ability to filter out 95 percent of airborne particles. N95 masks are single use items. N95 masks need to be fitted properly to have a protective seal and people not trained on wearing them and removing them may touch the exterior before touching their face, they may increase risk of infection.
Powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) are reusable type of protective head gear comprised of a hood around the person’s head and a battery-driven machines that pumps filtered air into the hood. Compared with N95 masks, PAPRs are more expensive and require maintenance. The hood needs to be replaced due to corrosion from repeated sterilizations.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, China was the supplier of half the world’s surgical and N95 masks. Since then it has expanded production 12-fold. Due to the outbreak and the country’s own need for masks, China stopped exporting masks. In China, the police require anyone going out in public to wear a mask. As of March 13, 2020, export of masks had not fully resumed, including no authorization for exports from Canadian manufacturer Medicom’s Shanghai factory, which produces 3 million masks a day. The Chinese government stated it was sending five million masks to South Korea and 100,000 respirators and two million surgical masks to Italy, as well as donations to Iran and the Philippines. The banning of export of masks has occurred in European countries as well.
General Motors has a joint venture with SAIC Motor through SAIC-GM-Wuling to build machines to produce face masks. The first machine came off production line in southwest China in Liuzhou in February, 2020. GAC Motor Co and BYD Co. are also producing face masks using equipment from external suppliers.
Sources of masks may come from veterinary suppliers. Eickemeyer is a company that provides products for veterinary and surgical use such as face shields and surgical masks. Their face shields can be autoclaved at 121°C for up to twenty minutes, and their surgical masks are three-ply.