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Omicron variant has people flocking to buy Burnaby company's N95 masks

COVID cases have surged in B.C.

A Burnaby company that produces six million medical-grade masks a month to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is expanding as the Omicron variant has pushed B.C. case numbers into record territory.

B.C.’s daily new COVID-19 case numbers — now fuelled by the fast-spreading Omicron variant — have suddenly skyrocketed from around 300 cases a month ago to an all-time high.

Provincial officials confirmed the grim news Tuesday, where new daily COVID cases surged to 1,308, significantly higher than both spikes in November 2020 and April of this year (the latter of which generated the previous daily high of 1,293 on April 8).

The surging numbers, which match the trends in other jurisdictions around the country, were one of the reasons the province began re-imposing strict social gathering measures that will last until at least mid-January — as was announced earlier on Tuesday.

The high level of transmission of Omicron has led people to question wearing cloth masks and those blue non-medical masks and search for something with more protection.

Burnaby’s Vitacore Industries Inc. was the first Canadian company to receive Health Canada authorization to produce N95-equivalent respirators on home soil.

The Health Canada authorization, granted in August 2020, makes the company's CAN95 the first and only medical grade respirator manufactured in Canada.

And it’s getting rave reviews from users who think this is what’s needed now to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m very impressed with new @vitacoreinc CAN99 respirators that I just received,” tweeted Andrew Longhurst, who goes to school in Burnaby. “High-quality product with comfortable, tight fit. Made in Burnaby. We should be providing kids & workers in education settings with high-efficiency respirators.”

Vitacore also deliveries its products to people’s homes.

Vitacore said it partnered with McMaster University to develop this Canadian N95-equivalent respirator with testing completed by the National Research Council of Canada.

Its single-use fold CAN95 respirators have tested at a higher average particle filtration efficiency than the N95 standard, said the company. Vitacore is also the first company in Canada with an integrated facility producing raw materials and finished products.

Vitacore Industries Inc. has also announced it will be opening a full-scale production facility in Saskatchewan for the manufacturing of medical equipment and PPE in 2022. 

This information was shared by the Jim Reiter, minister of SaskBuilds and Procurement, when he introduced Mikhail Moore, president of Vitacore, and John Sprague, director of operations, at the Saskatchewan Legislature.

Helmed by local business leaders, the privately-held company has quickly grown to a team of 90 employees, including engineers and medical professionals at its state-of-the-art facility in Burnaby.
The company will also expand its end-to-end recycling program for single-use masks and respirators to the region in a pilot program with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

“The first of its kind in Canada, Vitacore’s recycling program aims to reduce the pollution in Canada’s landfills and create a more sustainable future,” said a news release.

The pilot program will begin at Saskatoon City Hospital on Jan. 15, 2022. This follows the program’s launch in February 2021 within the Vancouver Coastal Health region, collecting nearly three million masks and respirators.
“Vitacore is the first and only Canadian company producing N95 respirators to receive Health Canada Authorization and certification by CSA Group and European CE (FFP3) for their CAN95 and CAN99 respirators; the CAN99 achieved 99-100% filtration efficiency in national and international assessments,” said a news release. “These certifications demonstrate that Vitacore’s CAN99 respirators follow the safety standards required for medical use.”

  • With additional reporting by Chuck Chiang, Glacier Media
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