The novel coronavirus disease has overwhelmed Italy’s health care system, and as COVID-19 continues to make its way across the country, some are expressing concern that the U.S. could soon be next. But a number of private companies have said in recent days that they are stepping up to fight against the pandemic — and now, one of the nation’s biggest automakers is following suit.
According to Fox News, Ford Motor Company executive chairman Bill Ford announced Tuesday that the company will be “working with General Electric [GE] and 3M to ‘gear up production’ on essential medical equipment” like masks and ventilators.
“We are going like hell, yes we are,” Ford told Fox on Tuesday morning.
The car executive pledged that his company has “four different work streams going, and we’re going as fast as we can.”
Masks and medical supplies
Ford told Fox that the company is working with 3M to create “air-purifying respirators, face shields, and 3-D [printed] N95 respirator masks.” He said the goal is to increase production of the masks “by a factor of six to 10 times of what they’re already doing.”
“We’re testing face shields this week in Detroit-area hospitals to make sure they work and then we can ramp up pretty quickly,” he added.
The company is also teaming up with GE to develop and produce ventilators.
“We’re helping them prototype, we’re using our engineers and manufacturing people and then as soon as we get that right, we’re going to go like crazy,” Ford told Fox.
Ventilators and missiles
For his part, President Donald Trump touted the private sector action in a tweet on Sunday, writing:
Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST! @fema Go for it auto execs, lets see how good you are? @RepMarkMeadows @GOPLeader @senatemajldr
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2020
The news comes as leaders in areas that have been hit hardest by the virus, like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), make desperate calls for more supplies. “In this war, ventilators are what the missiles were in World War II,” Cuomo told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie last week, according to a transcript provided by his office. “We have to make those missiles, we have to make those ventilators, get them made and that’s what the president’s talking about.”
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would relax regulatory restrictions regarding the design and production of ventilator equipment.
“We believe this approach will help manufacturers that want to add production lines or manufacture at alternative sites which may have different manufacturing equipment to increase manufacturing capacity,” the agency said, according to Axios.