Despite media claims to the contrary, President Donald Trump and his administration are springing into action to ensure the United States is prepared for a potential outbreak of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
One of those steps is the possible invocation of a special executive branch power that would allow the administration to dramatically increase the production of protective gear for medical professionals like sterile gloves, gowns, masks, and even full bodysuits, Reuters reported on Friday.
Defense Production Act
In a briefing at the White House on Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who is playing a key role in the administration’s response to the global coronavirus crisis, confirmed that the administration was considering making use of the special law to ramp up production of the various pieces of protective equipment that are now in high demand.
“We will use the Defense Production Act as necessary to enable that our contracts go to the front of the line,” Azar told reporters. “That is an authority that we have, and we will use it to acquire anything we need to acquire.”
Azar hinted at such action during a press briefing at the White House on Wednesday with President Trump and the entire coronavirus response team, which will be headed by Vice President Mike Pence. In the Wednesday briefing, Azar noted five main priorities he was personally focused on, the fifth of which was the “manufacturing and purchase of personal protective equipment like gowns and masks.”
Reuters reported separately on Thursday about the rumored possibility that Trump and Azar would use the Defense Production Act to obtain the protective gear in quantities deemed sufficient for the U.S. medical community to deal with a potential coronavirus outbreak.
The law was passed by Congress in 1950 ahead of the Korean War and granted the presidency the power in an emergency to order the expansion of production of certain items and materials deemed crucial to national security or other similarly important reasons — such as a global pandemic.
Should the Act actually be invoked, the Trump administration could order U.S. manufacturers like the 3M corporation and Honeywell International Inc., among others, to ramp up production of facemasks, gloves and other personal protection equipment.
In testimony to Congress earlier in the week, Azar had suggested that the U.S. needed a stockpile of around 300 million N95 facemasks to sufficiently supply all the medical professionals in the country who may potentially have to deal with the coronavirus. Unfortunately, the federal government only has a mere fraction of those vital supplies on hand at the moment.
Democrats and the media have repeatedly asserted that President Trump and his administration are not taking the coronavirus seriously. But as this report shows, the administration is taking rather extraordinary steps to try and protect the American people from the growing threat of a global pandemic, including the marshaling of private industry to meet the needs of the government in an emergency.
Stop buying masks
Meanwhile, save those masks for healthcare providers. “Seriously people,” the U.S. surgeon general wrote on Twitter Saturday. “STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
Read the list of ways to prevent coronavirus here.