Dan Izhaky is betting $4 million that the pandemic will change what Americans are willing to pay for high quality face masks from his new factory here in this suburb of Los Angeles. It´s a risky wager. Before COVID-19 hit, the United States imported much of the personal protection equipment needed by health care providers, mainly from Asia. Some U.S. companies pivoted in the crisis, such as liquor companies churning out hand sanitizer and plastics firms making face shields. But one item that remains in tight supply is N95 face masks, which provide a high level of filtration against airborne contaminants and are closely regulated by the U.S. government. Izhaky is president of United Safety Technology Inc, a startup that is poised to open a new N95 mask factory possibly within weeks. While the plant is still being fitted with machinery, his goal is to make 1 million masks a day when it´s up and running. Izhaky said if they get approval from regulators soon, the plant could be shipping that amount by the end of the second quarter. “The big question we face is what happens post-pandemic,” said Izhaky, “when you have a hospital administrator or whoever it is that´s in charge of purchasing” and looking at U.S.-made masks that cost more. The pricing of many types of protective equipment remain elevated by shortages, but once the market normalizes Izhaky estimates his masks will cost about 30% more than Chinese masks, or about $1.15 each. Other domestic producers are likely to face the same challenge, including industry giants Izhaky will compete with. 3M Co has quadrupled its domestic production of N95 masks since the start of the pandemic, expanding a factory in South Dakota and hiring 300 workers and now makes nearly 100 million masks in the U.S. a month. Honeywell International Inc has opened “multiple new locations in the Phoenix area” to make N95 masks, said spokesman Eric Krantz, and converted a significant portion of a factory in Rhode Island that also makes safety glasses.