“Elastomers were a real game changer for us,” said Dr. chalikonda. “When I think about all the millions of dollars wasted on N95s and then try to reuse them, you realize how many elastomers are a missed opportunity.”
Federal health officials say they are moving as soon as possible to produce stronger guidelines for elastomers. Maryann D’Alessandro, director of the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, said scientists were reviewing feedback from a study that distributed nearly 100,000 ventilators to hospitals, nursing homes and first responders across the country. “If we can put together a toolkit to guide organizations and educate users, we hope it can help move the needle,” she said.
Many entrepreneurs with masks probably won’t last that long. Max Bock-Aronson, the co-founder of Breathe99, which makes an elastomeric respirator that Time magazine has included on its 2020 list of the best inventions, has shut down operations at the company’s Minnesota plant.
He blames the drop in sales on Covid fatigue and declining public interest in protective clothing. The company’s fortunes, he added, were doomed early on by the CDC’s mask guidelines, which prompted Amazon, Google and Facebook to restrict or ban the sale of medical masks to consumers, even as the import of personal protective equipment. the United States again began to flood.
“The whole industry has been gutted,” said Mr. Bock-Aronson. “Every time there is a new variant, we get a small increase in sales, but I haven’t taken a cent out of the business since last May,”
For now, he’s focused on finding a buyer for his business while selling his inventory online. The masks cost $59 and can be covered with washable covers in eight colors, including crimson, linen and royal blue.
All sales, the website apologetically points out, are final.