Flyers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport wearing facemasks Chad Davis / CC BY-SA

In a press briefing by the US Government’s Coronavirus taskforce, Vice President Mike Pence announced, in a rather impromptu fashion, that Apple is donating 2 million masks to US hospitals in their fight against coronavirus outbreak in the states. This donation comes amid acute shortage of these masks in the US, with the Government asking large companies and industrial houses to donate any spare masks that they can.

N95 masks have traditionally been manufactured for workers in industrial sectors, largely chemicals, engineering, manufacturing etc. Since the N95 mask is meant to protect industrial workers from harmful pollutants and other toxic particles in air, general public has increasingly started buying these to protect themselves from coronavirus. Medical and health agencies have now also started recommending usage of N95 as a precautionary measure.

These N95 masks, along with other medical masks, are crucial to the global fight against coronavirus. In the US alone, infections have breached the 22,000 mark and continue to rise at an alarming pace. Amid such unprecedented outbreak, these N95 masks have suddenly gained demand, but with limited supply. The US Government seems to be pulling all stops to rapidly increase inventory, but hasn’t found much success.

Another reason behind shortage of these N95 masks is lack of awareness on their re-usability/extended usability among general public. In this latest coronavirus briefing, President Trump could be repeatedly seen stressing on how people have been throwing away these masks after single use, like usual surgical masks. The fact however is, that N95 masks are re-usable to some extent. More detailed guidelines on the re-use and extended use of these masks can be found on the CDC website here.

This week, a new law was signed that makes it much easier for companies to make industrial masks without fear of liability. Apple appears to be joining this cause. According to several medical estimates, the US healthcare system is estimated to need up to 3.5 billion masks, depending on how bad the coronavirus pandemic becomes.

Apple has not yet officially confirmed its latest plans on how it is helping fight the worldwide pandemic. Last week, Apple said it had committed $15 million in donations to help treat the sick and lessen economic impacts of the crisis.

The pandemic has continued to infect global population at an alarming rate with the epicentre now shifting to the US and Europe from Mainland China. Both Europe and the US continue to see an exponential rise in number of infections as well as deaths. According to latest available numbers, globally the pandemic has infected over 300,000 already.