Cloth masks are out, N95s are in. Here's what you need to know

Brooks Johnson, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

In 2020 the company reached its goal of producing 2 billion N95s and made 2.5 billion in 2021.

"Sometimes it goes on a month-to-month basis," Eby said about current production levels. "Who knows if this is going to last for a year? So that's been the tricky part."

On Wednesday, Eby will visit a Nebraska plant that produces N95s to thank the workers for "being able to do this for people worried about their loved ones," he said. "I hope we get back to a state of normalcy, but if it's needed, we'll be here."

Why an N95?

Masks are best at keeping your exhaled particles away from others. Respirators, like the N95, also keep others' particles away from you.

3M was the first to make disposable filtering face masks approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a federal agency, in the 1970s. Originally designed for industrial use, 3M's N95 masks were improved over time for use in other settings like health care.


N95 is not a brand name but a NIOSH certification of effectiveness — blocking at least 95% of airborne particles. So while 3M N95 respirators are the market leaders, other brands and designs carry the certification.

Experts have recommended respirators since the beginning of the pandemic, and now "even more so with this high level of contagion," Eby said.

How does it work?

Two things give the N95 its high level of effectiveness: the filter and the fit.


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