As CDC looks to encourage N95 or KN95 masks, Pittsburgh companies working on supply

PITTSBURGH — With this most recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the CDC is looking into changing its guidance to encourage everyone to wear an N95 or KN95 mask.

>>STORY: CDC to consider changing guidance, calling for all to wear N95 masks

Dr. Matthew Moffa with Allegheny Health Network said this current push for people to wear better protective masks stems from the omicron variant being more contagious.

“If you really want the best personal protection, that’s where the N95 type masks come in,” said Moffa, AHN Infectious Diseases physician.

While the N95 type masks were manufactured for single use, Moffa said the recommendation has been you can reuse them but don’t wash them, and store them in something like a brown paper bag.

“Have a couple masks in your cycle,” said Moffa. “One for Monday. One for Tuesday. One for Wednesday. And then after four or five days, start back over and use them for maybe five times before thinking about getting rid of them. But certainly, they become wet or soiled. The elasticity weakens. Then it’s time to switch them out.”

>>STORY: Can you reuse KN95, N95 masks? CDC says yes, but follow steps to sanitize them

Little Earth Productions Inc. is located in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood. The company started in 1993, and they sell licensed sports gear. They’re the official manufacturer of the Terrible Towel.

“During the pandemic, our sports business obviously just went away,” said Little Earth Productions Inc. CEO Ava DeMarco. “We initially imported KN95 masks at the beginning of the pandemic, basically at the request of friends and family, a lot of whom were physicians or frontline workers who literally couldn’t find PPE. And since we already do a lot of importing — we have a lot of vendors that we really trust and work with in China — we were able to bring these masks in.”

DeMarco said they ordered around 100,000 KN95 masks at the beginning of the pandemic. They still have about 20,000 for sale, but it’s becoming even more challenging to get these types of shipments.

“Right now, getting anything in from overseas is incredibly difficult,” said DeMarco. “We’re focused on just getting our regular product in right now. Boats take up to three months when they used to take 30 days. All the costs have gone up for shipping tenfold. It’s just crazy. We feel like we still have enough masks to get us through. Hopefully, this pandemic will end soon, or I don’t know if it’s ever going to end, but it will calm down and we won’t need as much masking.”

DeMarco said they’re not going to increase their price per mask, which is $1.55. There’s also no limit to how many masks you can purchase. If you’re interested in ordering KN95 masks from Little Earth Productions Inc., you can call 412-471-0909 ext. 1198 or go to their website (CLICK HERE).

“This isn’t our primary business,” said DeMarco. “As you know, we make the Terrible Towel for the Steelers and we do licensed sports, so we’re more interested in getting these out to people that need them and we’re going to keep our price as it is.”

Another supplier of N95 masks listed on the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s website is Zambelli Technology International LLC.

John Zambelli is the president of Zambelli Technology International LLC. He said he’s responding to requests for all PPE, including N95 and KN95 masks, and he’s also selling masks to Pennsylvania residents at a reduced rate. If you’re interested in purchasing, you can send an email to jlzambo@aol.com or you can call him at 412-736-1910. You can also visit www.zambellitech.com. Zambelli said the price per mask changes frequently, but on Jan. 12, 2022, the price for the most common mask that he has in stock is $2.75 per N95 mask or $1.00 per KN95 mask.