US mask companies struggle to compete with China

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At Congress, a bill with bipartisan support, it would allocate $ 500 million in annual spending over the next three years to support domestic manufacturers of vital medical equipment.

While industry executives welcome these moves, they say time is running out. the American Mask Manufacturers Association, a newly formed trade group, said its 27 members had already laid off 50 percent of their workforce. Without concerted action from Washington, most of these businesses will collapse within the next two months.

An immediate boost, they say, would be to cancel the CDC Guidelines, born during the pandemic, which force health workers to repeatedly reuse N95 masks, even though they are designed to be discarded after contact with each patient. Many hospitals are still following the guidelines, despite the 260 million masks collecting dust in warehouses across the country.

“We are not looking for endless support from government,” said Lloyd Armbrust, association president and founder and CEO of American armbrust, a mask manufacturing company in Texas. “We need government support right now because unfair pressure from China is going to kill this new industry before lawmakers even have a chance to fix the problem.”

The association plans to file an unfair trade complaint with the World Trade Organization, saying much of the protective gear imported from China sells for less than the cost of production. The price of some Chinese-made surgical masks recently fell to 1 cent, compared to around 10 to 15 cents for US masks using domestically produced raw materials.

“It’s a total economic war,” said Luis Arguello Jr., vice president of DemeTech, a Florida medical suturing company that earlier this month laid off 1,500 workers who made surgical masks. He said that in the coming weeks another 500 workers who make N95 masks would also likely be made redundant.

“China’s mission is to make sure that no one in the industry survives, and so far they are winning,” Arguello said.



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