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Washington group secures masks for providers that can't find them

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
Now that the N-95 has the endorsement of federal health agencies, it's become harder to find.

The Washington State Hospital Association says there's great demand among its members.

The demand for high quality masks has increased now that health officials are recommending N-95s in all settings.

The federal government will soon work with retailers to distribute free N-95s to the public. But facilities that use a lot may find it harder to get enough of them.

One Washington group has stepped in to help.

Early in the pandemic, when access to masks was a problem, workers were reusing what they had because they couldn’t get replacements. With N-95s now the preferred alternative, supply has again become an issue, says Taya Briley from the Washington State Hospital Association.

“The state has said its stockpile is available to hospitals but often the state supply does not have the small sizes or the brands that our hospital staff need," she said.

Providers have found private suppliers of masks. But they haven’t always been able to order enough, the costs were exorbitant or the quality was shoddy. Briley’s organization recently placed an order with what it considers a trusted source, 3-M.

“WSHA received orders from 27 hospitals, requests for just over one million N-95s and we will be working to get those supplies in over the next couple of weeks," she said.

Several Spokane health agencies report their N-95 stockpiles are fine for now, but they continue to look to supplement what they have.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.