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Millions of N95 masks are being made in Amherst

Health officials say that cloth masks are useless against the omicron variant. One Amherst company is primed to produce thousands of N95 masks a day.

AMHERST, N.Y. — Thousands of masks are churning out each day at a small manufacturing facility in Amherst, hidden in plain sight. 

 "When the pandemic came, we were having trouble getting masks from my dental office," Dr. Todd Shatkin said. "We were having trouble getting good quality and 95 masks."

Dr. Shatkin decided that he and his team would figure out how to make N-95 masks themselves, so they did. The idea was to help fill the needs for his office but also help other medical professionals as well. 

"I knew if I was having trouble getting good quality masks, they also were having trouble," Dr. Shatkin said. "So we decided to put a mask factory together."

Pure Environments is located in the basement of Shatkin F.I.R.S.T. on Kensington Avenue in Amherst. The company traditionally makes fabricated dental implants, and still do, but also began manufacturing N-95 masks in June of 2020

"We've made over two and a half million masks," Dr. Shatkin said. "We've donated about 500,000 of them to local area hospitals, nursing homes, medical companies.

The facility is primed to produce at least 30,000 N-95 masks per day. Much of the operation is automated. The spools of raw material fed into a conveyer-like machine about 25 feet long, which produces a NIOSH compliant mask in minutes. 

Workers then take the bin of masks to another machine that attaches the straps or headbands. Finally, employees place the mask on another conveyer where they are shrink-wrapped and ready for sale. 

With health officials saying that cloth masks aren't efficient, Dr. Shatkin says there is significant demand for N-95 masks. 

"I think masks are here to stay, especially in hospital settings." Dr. Shatkin said. "Knowing what's happened this time around, they're going to be more careful moving forward."

Dr. Shatkin said that creating a new business during the pandemic was a challenge, but a worthwhile one.

"It's always a challenge running any business, but I'm excited to do it," Dr. Shatkin said. "We've got a great team of people here working for me."

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