Counterfeit Covid masks are still sold everywhere

The domestic industry’s woes extend beyond the consumer mask market. In recent months, the medical supply giants that serve the country’s major hospital systems have eagerly resumed purchasing low-cost protective equipment overseas.

The companies, including McKesson, Henry Schein and Cardinal Health, have pressured the Biden administration to retain a tariff exemption on imported protective equipment that was put in place earlier in the pandemic. Those pushing for the retention of the tax exemption on Chinese masks, including the Association of American Hospitals, claim that domestic producers cannot meet the ever-increasing demand for single-use respirators and other protective equipment.

Opponents strongly disagree, noting that many U.S. companies are struggling to find institutional buyers as hospital systems increasingly turn to Chinese imports. The price difference is often a few cents per mask – enough to sway the cost concern wholesale buyers.

In a letter they sent to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai in October, a dozen Senate Democrats framed the issue as a national security issue. “Rather than take the strain off Chinese-made products, we should invest and support our domestic manufacturers so that they are able to provide America’s healthcare systems and other essential workers with the high-quality PPE and life-saving supplies they need. to manage the Covid-19. pandemic and prepare for future threats to public health ”, they wrote.

A spokesperson for Ms Tai’s office said the tariffs would be reimposed from November 30.

Company executives said they were encouraged by the wording of the new infrastructure bill which strengthens existing rules forcing federal agencies to purchase nationally manufactured medical equipment.

But government spending alone is unlikely to save many companies, whose sales have plummeted amid the resurgence of Chinese imports, according to the American Mask Makers Association, who says this nearly half of the group’s 25 members have stopped making masks in recent months.

“We’re hanging on to life right now, but the game is really against us,” said Brian Wolin, CEO of Sanitary protective equipment, an N95 start-up in Paterson, NJ, which last summer rushed to rehire dozens of workers who had been laid off in the months leading up to the arrival of the Delta variant, resulting in increased sales .

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