Report: 500K respirators are headed to New York, Washington state

Two American cities hit hard by the coronavirus are about to receive 500,000 respirators.

The CEO of company 3M, Mike Roman, announced the shipments in a LinkedIn post on the COVID-19 outbreak on Sunday, The Hill reported. Roman said the company is shifting 90% of its production of respirators to supplying health care workers as the virus threatens to crush hospital systems around the country.

“As I write this, more than 500,000 respirators are on the way from our South Dakota plant to two of the more critically impacted areas, New York and Seattle, with arrivals expected starting tomorrow,” Roman wrote. “We are also ready to expedite additional shipments across the country.”

3M maximizes production

In his statement, Roman said that 3M is maximizing the production of its N95 respirators, with priority given to replenishing medical supplies at America’s hospitals. The company is now producing 35 million respirators per month in the United States out of some 100 million each month worldwide.

“Since the initial COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve ramped up to maximum production levels of N95 respirators and doubled our global output to a rate of more than 1.1 billion per year, or nearly 100 million per month. In the United States we are producing 35 million respirators per month,” Roman wrote. “[O]f these, more than 90% are now designated for health care workers, with the remaining deployed to other industries also critical in this pandemic, including energy, food and pharmaceutical companies.”

The company will soon deliver 500,000 respirators to New York and Seattle, Roman said. It comes as state and local governments in hard-hit places like these have been clamoring for help with rectifying shortages in face masks and other equipment.

Roman told CNBC on Monday that it is “disappointing” that some retailers are selling the N95 respirator as demand for basic medical supplies at hospitals remains high. “It’s disappointing when you see that because we’re trying to redirect everything to health care workers,” he said.

Trump holding off on war powers

Since COVID-19 arrived in America, the epicenter of the virus has shifted from Seattle, the initial hotspot, to New York. There are now more than 20,000 cases in New York and 12,000 in New York City alone, according to the New York Post, and over 150 deaths statewide. In Seattle, there were nearly 2,000 cases and almost 100 dead as of Sunday, KIRO 7 reported.

As the coronavirus festers in places like New York, state and local leaders there have complained that President Donald Trump is not using the full extent of his powers to help them get supplies and battle the disease. But Trump said Sunday that the voluntary action of companies like 3M is one reason why he is reluctant to invoke his war powers under the Defense Production Act to mobilize production, a course of action he said would be akin to nationalization.

“We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business. Call a person over in Venezuela,” Trump said, according to The Hill. “How did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well.”

Still, the president announced Sunday that the National Guard would be helping in New York, California, and Washington to “provide additional resources” to areas hardest hit by the coronavirus, The Hill reported.

Congress at a stalemate

The news comes amid a debate over corporate “bailouts” and stock buybacks as Congress struggles to pass an economic relief package to help Americans weathering an economic downturn spurred by the nearly complete shutdown of social life in the United States.

Trump has said that he is on the same page with Democrats in opposing stock buybacks, according to Fox Business; however, the Senate failed to move a relief bill forward Sunday after Democrats rejected it, NBC News reported.

A second vote failed Monday, according to The Hill.

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