N95 mask manufacturer 3M’s sales explode amid Omicron surge, CDC plug expected to aid profits

Laurel Duggan, DCNF

A major N95 mask manufacturer saw a rise in sales during the Omicron variant surge and expects to profit further from new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Wall Street Journal reported.

3M saw $40 million more than it expected in mask sales in the last quarter of 2021, which it attributed to a surge in Omicron variant cases, according to the WSJ. The company will likely see a further rise in sales related to a newly-proposed government program that would distribute 400 million N95 masks free of charge.

The CDC recommended Jan. 14 that Americans consider wearing N95s in certain situations including crowded public transportation, citing the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant and reduced concern about mask shortages.

In addition to the U.S. government promoting the use of N95 masks, private institutions, such as Johns Hopkins University now require students to either wear N95s or double-mask despite nearly universal vaccination of students and faculty against COVID-19.

Los Angeles began requiring employers to provide medical-grade masks such as N95s to employees who are in close proximity to others while indoors beginning Jan. 17, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“People recognize the protection they get with an N95,” 3M Chief Executive Mike Roman told the WSJ. “Government officials have been public about that. It has heightened people’s awareness.” 

3M sold $1.5 billion in N95s and other masks in 2021 compared to $600 million in 2019, before the pandemic, the WSJ reported. The company said it ultimately expects mask demand to decline later in 2022.

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