CLOSEAs Americans rushed to buy face masks amid the early but growing threat of coronavirus, U.S. February imports of the product from its biggest supplier — China — plummeted to its lowest level in years, a USA TODAY analysis of trade data found. Combined with a sky-high increase in U.S. mask exports to China the same month, the trade data suggest a double whammy: fewer masks coming in and more masks going out, just as U.S. medical workers were about to need as many as they could get.The U.S. imported $203.1 million in protective masks from China in February, a more than 20% drop from the $261 million worth of masks in the same month last year, according to a USA TODAY analysis on Census trade data. It was the lowest February import of Chinese masks since 2015.At the same time, U.S. exports of masks to China surged to $15.8 million, their highest February levels in a decade, the data show. The analysis examines a trade category that includes the tight-fitting N95 respirator masks, as well as the looser-fitting, disposable surgical masks and other textile-based masks. The World Customs Organization identifies the code group as one of several different medical supply categories needed


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