America Could Import Countless More Face Masks if Federal Regulators Would Get Out of the Way
“Due to the worldwide shortage of N95 masks, the operative question for FDA regulators is not whether a Chinese KN95 mask is preferable to an American N95 mask,” write Alec Stapp, director of technology policy at the Progressive Policy Institute, and Caleb Watney, a tech policy fellow with the free-market R Street Institute, in a forthcoming paper on the regulatory challenges facing face mask suppliers.
“The question is,” they continue, “whether it’s better than the CDC’s recommendation that healthcare professionals ‘might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort.'”
According to the CDC’s own data, it takes an average of 95 days to approve new certifications for face mask suppliers. That’s far too long, even at the best of times.
Stapp and Watney compare the FDA’s and CDC’s role in the ongoing face mask shortage to how the same federal agencies initially restricted the number of labs that could work to develop COVID-19 testing kits. The federal government should learn from that experience and act quickly to address the shortage of masks by freeing up markets and allowing additional imports, they argue.