Vice President Mike Pence said at a March 19 briefing that there has been a massive surge in the supply of protective masks that frontline medical staff and others rely on to minimize the risk of infection amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pence said that the supply is “greatly expanded” thanks to bipartisan legislation passed March 18, which made tens of millions of N95 masks classified for industrial use now available to hospitals.
“We’ve put a priority at the president’s direction on making sure those who are providing health care services to America have the protection to keep themselves and their families safe,” Pence said, adding that the bill, adopted March 18, extended liability protection for makers of N95 masks and made it possible for them to make their stockpiles available to hospitals.
Manufacturers asked for the legal change as demand and potential liability soars during the coronavirus outbreak. The legal reform, which had bipartisan backing, amended the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which had liability protection for a subset of N95 respiratory masks with splash protection intended for use in surgeries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends any certified N95 mask to protect against the virus.
Pence said 3M made around 35 million masks per month, but less than 5 million were qualified to be sold to hospitals due to liability constraints now removed via Wednesday’s bill.
He also said Honeywell was repurposing a factory destined for Mexico to produce another 120 million masks per year, and that 3M was increasing output to 420 million masks per year.
The administration has sought to relieve the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus as the CCP virus due to the Chinese Communist Party’s initial coverup and mismanagement of the outbreak, which helped the virus spread across China and become a global pandemic.
‘Prepare, Mitigate, and Respond to COVID-19’
On March 18, the Trump administration called on U.S. construction companies to donate their respirator masks to hospitals and other health care providers combating the outbreak.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the afternoon of March 19 for a video teleconference with state governors to discuss partnerships to “prepare, mitigate and respond to COVID-19.”
Pence said that at that meeting, state governors would be made aware of the increased supply of masks and Trump would urge them to take action to ensure they quickly reach frontline responders fighting the outbreak.
“We’re working with governors to make sure that the health care providers, the hospitals, and the clinics in their state are placing orders now that this tremendous increase in supply, particularly with industrial masks, is now available,” Pence said.
“We’re going to make sure they understand that the supply is greatly expanded thanks to bipartisan legislation and the accomplishment of the president,” he added. “And the response by these companies is making more masks available. And we’re going to make sure health care providers are purchasing those and the federal government will also make sure our stockpiles properly reflect those increases as well.”
Asked by reporters why Trump had not yet used the powers afforded in the recently re-authorized Defense Production Act (DPA) to direct companies to manufacture more personal protective equipment, the president said that the measures taken by the private sector so far appear adequate.
The law grants the president broad authority to “expedite and expand the supply of resources from the U.S. industrial base to support military, energy, space, and homeland security programs,” according to a summary on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
The president added that urgency of the matter would drive further decisions with regard to the DPA.
“If we were desperately in need of something,” Trump told a journalist asking what it would take for him to use the powers under the program.
“And frankly, we’ll know about that shortly,” he added, in reference to the unpredictable dynamics of the outbreak.