New York Times

Health workers are still being forced to ration protective masks, but small U.S. manufacturers can’t find buyers, and some are in a danger of going under.

Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

A year into the pandemic, the disposable, virus-filtering N95 mask remains a coveted piece of protective gear. Continuing shortages have forced doctors and nurses to reuse their N95s, and ordinary Americans have scoured the internet — mostly in vain — to get them.

But Luis Arguello Jr. has plenty of N95s for sale — 30 million of them, in fact, which his family-run business, DemeTech, manufactured in its factories in Miami. He simply can’t find buyers.

After the pandemic exposed a huge need for protective equipment, and China closed its inventory to the world, DemeTech, a medical suture maker, dived into the mask business. The company invested tens of millions of dollars in new machinery and then navigated a nine-month federal approval process that allows the masks to be marketed.

But demand is so slack that Mr. Arguello is preparing to lay off some of the 1,300 workers he had hired to ramp up production.