FEMA last-minute waiver allows U.S. company to export 5 million masks per month despite domestic shortage, survey finds

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Shortly before President Joe Biden was sworn in, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a waiver allowing Prestige Ameritech to export up to 5 million N95 masks per month, while the United States is still faced with a shortage of masks, Kaiser Health news reported.

The waiver was sent to U.S. Border Patrol officials overseeing exports 103 minutes before President Biden was sworn in, according to Kaiser Health News, who got the waiver. The waiver allowed Prestige Ameritech, the largest domestic manufacturer of surgical masks and respirators in America, to export its N95 masks because it couldn’t get customers in the United States.

Prestige Ameritech was unable to find U.S. customers because hospitals were unwilling to perform fit testing to ensure its N95 model seals on employees’ faces, according to the FEMA waiver.

Mike Bowen, president of the company, said Prestige had increased production of N95 masks from 75,000 per month to 9.6 million per month during the pandemic, according to Kaiser Health news. But of late, major buyers have been unwilling to buy the masks, and the company lacks the infrastructure to sell to smaller buyers, so it now has so many masks in stock that it might need to. lay off workers and reduce production, Kaiser Health news reported.

The FEMA waiver says it was granted in “the interest of national defense” to ensure that production continues to run at pace, according to Kaiser Health news. But Mr. Bowen said Kaiser Health news Prestige cannot find foreign buyers even with the waiver.

He said Kaiser Health news he doesn’t understand why frontline workers say they need more N95 masks, but hospitals say they don’t.

“There’s a disconnect somewhere, and I don’t know where it is,” he said. “Why don’t my phones ring when there is a shortage?”

National Nurses United President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, said Kaiser Health news she still has to “beg” for a new N95 mask if hers is soiled.

Read the entire article here.

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