Butner manufacturer uses international network of suppliers to help supply masks to healthcare workers

BUTNER, N.C. (WTVD) -- One Triangle area company is managing to weather the COVID-19 pandemic and is putting its contacts and resources to use to try to help get masks for healthcare workers.

PRM Filtration in the Town of Butner has been fortunate to be able to weather the virus outbreak.

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"All the employees we've maintained. We haven't had to consider any layoffs or anything like that," company president Mel Phillips said at the company's warehouse and plant, where workers are wearing protective gear and practicing social distancing. "We have a good backlog of work. And we have other diversification's in business which has allowed us to continue."

The 30-year-old family-owned company manufactures water and air filter equipment and also imports and distributes those products.

So when they realized a few weeks ago that masks were in short supply for U.S. healthcare workers they started reaching out to suppliers.

"We have several vendors in Asia that have been long-term partners with us. And we formulated a plan to try to help," Phillips said.

In the past couple of weeks, the company has received nearly 40,000 masks and they're going out as fast as they come in.

"We're trying to ramp that up as quick as we can. It's difficult to increase the rate that they come in but we are having some success at that which allows in turn to get them out to the people in need," Phillips said.

They aren't trying to make a profit, according to Phillips

"We're basically just trying to cover our costs. There's too many groups out there we feel that are taking advantage of the situation and I don't want our company to be in that arena."

Their shipments are not K-95 masks but KN-95 masks.

The CDC website lists KN-95 masks as "suitable alternatives" when supplies are short.

Phillips noted, "The masks we're receiving come from a certified FDA facility. And we're expanding that. So the masks we have are a little bit slightly more expensive but that's what the healthcare workers tell us they are looking for. It's not a cost issue right now, it's a quality issue."

He said right now shipments of 5,000 to 15,000 masks are coming in every day or two, and not only is he trying to get more but also monitor who's buying them.

"We're trying to make sure the large volumes of masks make their way into the hands of healthcare professionals which is where the real massive need is."

Phillips says PRM Filtration is only doing what's socially responsible and hopes any other business would do what his is doing if they had the connections.
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