A year ago, hundreds of desperate consumers were emailing Mike Bowen’s Texas medical supply factory every day, looking to buy N95 medical respirator masks that can filter viruses: “Scared Americans and moms and old people and people saying, ‘Help me,’ ” Bowen recalls.

Today, most consumers still aren’t able to buy N95 masks, because the supply available to retailers remains very limited. Even hospital workers are still being asked to ration and reuse their supplies of N95s, and the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “N-95 respirators should not be used [by the general public] because they should be conserved for healthcare personnel.”

Credit: Debora Cartagena CDC

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