141 Million N95 Masks to Be Made Over 6 Months Under Defense Production Act

April 21, 2020 Updated: April 21, 2020

The Pentagon has released details of its $133 million plan to produce 39 million N95 masks in the next three months under the Defense Production Act.

“Three companies were awarded contracts: 3M ($76 million), O&M Halyard ($29 million) and Honeywell ($27.4 million),” said Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman. “The increased production will ensure the U.S. Government gets dedicated long-term industrial capacity to meet the needs of the nation.”

In addition to the previous announcement of 39 million masks to be produced in 90 days, the Pentagon said April 21 that the three companies would produce a total of 141 million N95 masks in the next six months, with the capacity for 37.5 million masks a month after that.

The N95 masks, which provide a level of protection to the wearer from COVID-19 that’s needed by health care workers, are in short supply across the globe.

Last week, the Pentagon announced it had contracted out another solution to the mask shortage: machines that can disinfect N95 masks, allowing them to be reused up to 20 times.

The mask manufacturing project is the first under Title 3 of the Defense Production Act (DPA) which allows the president to invest in specific industries to expand domestic capacity and supply for defense-related materials.

“3M will accelerate production by converting a current equipment supplier into an N95 producer, and will also expand meltblown material production in the Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, and Aberdeen, Nebraska, plants,” Andrews said.

O&M Halyard will also increase mask material production and expand its production line at its Del Rio, Texas, facility.

Honeywell will accelerate production scale-up, including capital equipment, at its Smithfield, Rhode Island, plant and accelerate a second production line for long-term needs.

The Pentagon has also ordered 60 machines that will be able to disinfect more than 4.8 million N95 protective masks a day.

The Department of Defense announced on April 13 that new decontamination units produced by Battelle—at a total cost of $415 million—will be able to clean each mask up to 20 times.

masks
Masks at 3M, contracted by the U.S. government to produce extra masks, in Maplewood, Minn., on March 4, 2020. (Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters)

“All 60 systems will be available by early May for prioritization and distribution by FEMA and HHS,” Andrews said in a statement. “Once all are delivered, these 60 units will allow 4.8 million masks to be sterilized per day, almost 34 million per week.”

The masks are cleaned using “concentrated vapor phase hydrogen peroxide,” according to a description on the Battelle website. “The respirators are exposed at the validated concentration level to decontaminate biological contaminants, including the SARS-CoV-2.”

Beyond arranging contracts for medical equipment, the military has been assisting directly in other ways as the United States wrestles with the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Currently, more than 36,000 members of the National Guard have been deployed (pdf) by their local governors, with 38 states receiving federal top-up funding to ensure they can use their Guardsmen at will, without worrying about the cost.

The Army Corps of Engineers is constructing makeshift hospitals from convention centers, arenas, hotels, and dormitories, with 32 of the alternative care sites now being built, or already finished.

The total bed capacity of those hospitals stands at 15,800. That number is more than doubled, however, when counting the additional 40 plus facilities designed by the Army engineers but being built directly by local governors.

The corps finished seven sites over the weekend, bringing the total completed alternative care sites to 10.

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