March 24, 2020

Protecting the front lines

Axios PM: 
Axios PM
By Mike Allen ·Mar 24, 2020

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green and with reporting from Joann Muller, Bob Herman and Erica Pandey — is 500 words, a 2-minute read..


Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios


America's new goalpost: Build tens of thousands of ventilators and assemble and reuse billions of face masks in the next few weeks to ward off some of the worst-case scenarios from the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Why it matters: We need to give medical professionals, first responders and essential personnel (like grocery store staff) every possible tool to treat the ill and avoid getting sick themselves.

The first wave of need is right now: New York has 7,000 ventilators and needs 30,000 — and America's essential personnel need an estimated 3.5 billion N95 masks.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pleading with the Trump administration for help. He is asking it to use the Defense Production Act for ventilator production and to tap the federal stockpile to provide 20,000 machines. VP Mike Pence said today that 4,000 more are on the way.
  • Cuomo says he needs the ventilator stockpile during the next few weeks, then he promises to pass them to other parts of the country.

The second wave is coming fast: As outbreaks grow in other states, manufacturers will be needed to dramatically expand the national capacity.

Face masks and protective gear:

  • Firms such as Honeywell and 3M are expanding their N95 production.
  • Ford will start producing 100,000 plastic face shields per week.
  • 3M is working with Ford to pump out powered air-purifying respirators.
  • The FDA is easing rules for importing needed products, including personal protective equipment like N95s, into the U.S.
  • Many hospitals are starting to disinfect and reuse respirator masks with UV light machines while they wait for backlogged supply.


  • Companies that include GE Healthcare, Ford and Ventec Life Systems are ramping up production.
  • The FDA has relaxed some regulations to allow modifications, a critical step.
  • Yes, but: Ventilators need to be used in properly equipped, sanitized units, and many rural areas simply don’t have those types of rooms. They also require skilled personnel to keep them running.

The bottom line: President Trump says he hopes the country can start returning to normal by Easter.

Go deeper: American manufacturing vs. the coronavirus

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