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President Donald Trump is reportedly considering invoking special powers through a law that would allow the United States to rapidly and aggressively beef up its domestic manufacturing capabilities to combat the coronavirus.
The Defense Production Act, which was “passed by Congress in 1950 at the outset of the Korean War, would mark an escalation of the administration’s response to the outbreak. The virus first surfaced in China and has since spread to other countries including the United States,” Reuters reported. “The law grants the president the power to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons.”
The report noted that White House officials and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were considering using the law to rapidly produce protective gear in preparation of a possible outbreak in the U.S.
“Let’s say ‘Company A’ makes a multitude of respiratory masks but they spend 80% of their assembly lines on masks that painters wear and only 20% on the N95,” a White House official told Reuters on background. “We will have the ability to tell corporations, ‘No, you change your production line so it is now 80% of the N95 masks and 20% of the other.’”
The Wall Street Journal reported:
Hospitals and public-health officials in the U.S. and Europe are rationing medical masks and scrounging for more, as they prepare for a potential widening of the coronavirus epidemic.
Global hoarding has left European wholesalers with empty shelves. Manufacturers outside China say they won’t be able to fill an exploding stack of orders for months. U.S. hospitals and medical-supply companies have reported dwindling mask inventory and partial or delayed shipments as the surge in global demand for protective equipment enters a second month.
The administration launched a task force over a month ago to combat the coronavirus which is being led by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and is coordinated through the National Security Council.
Current members of the administration who are on the task force include:
This report has been updated to include additional information.