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COVID-19

News >  Spokane

3M struggles to meet demand for protective masks during coronavirus outbreak

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 26, 2020

Visitors wear surgical masks  Wednesday as they wait for the arrival of Pope Francis in Rome. Minnesota-based 3M is struggling to keep up with global demand for protective masks. (Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press)
Visitors wear surgical masks Wednesday as they wait for the arrival of Pope Francis in Rome. Minnesota-based 3M is struggling to keep up with global demand for protective masks. (Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press)
By Dee Depass (Minneapolis) Star Tribune

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3M cannot make protective respiratory masks fast enough as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The Minnesota-based company continues to ramp up production of the masks at plants in China but also other countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America, as well as the United States.

Even so, global demand is still “exceeding supply,” said 3M spokeswoman Jennifer Ehrlich in an e-mail. “3M expects demand for respirators to outpace supply for the foreseeable future.”

St. Paul-based Ecolab, which provides sanitizing and disinfecting chemicals, said it is selling more disinfectants in China. But even as hand sanitizing and disinfectant sales rise there, demand for other products is falling, investor relations head Mike Monahan said last week.

The coronavirus effects will likely decrease Ecolab’s earnings this year by 10%, even as the higher disinfectant sales in China and perhaps other countries affected by the virus will increase.

Many hotels, restaurants, airlines and cruise ships in China, South Korea, Italy and elsewhere are losing revenue as locals stay home for fear of getting sick.

U.S. manufacturers are bracing to see just how hard the coronavirus will slam business this year as they cope with supply delays.

Minnesota producers with suppliers or factories across China have banned employee travel, set up morale-boosting phone calls to homebound workers, launched factory washdowns and changed supply schedules and routes. All in the hopes of coping with an outbreak that originated in China in December but has since fanned out worldwide, claiming nearly 3,000 lives and sickening more than 80,000.

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