President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order Thursday “insisting on American-made medical supplies and pharmaceuticals in response to the coronavirus outbreak,” according to Fox News.
He will also direct his cabinet to improve the availability of industrial single-use face masks and general-use respirators to health care professionals who have, in recent days, had to rely on commercially available face masks or resort to re-using masks that are supposed to be for one-time use only. The measure comes, Becker’s Hospital Review reports, “as health systems around the country grapple with dwindling supplies of protective N95 face masks, which filter out about 95 percent of all airborne particles.”
“President Trump is focused on the health of the American people, and so his administration has taken action to provide protection to manufacturers that will enable production of millions of additional masks for our healthcare providers,” a memo from the White House, released following the president’s address from the Oval Office Wednesday night, read.
Although details of the executive order are scarce, Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News that the measure is “a very strong first step toward increasing domestic production by enforcing Buy American requirements for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, as well as fast-tracking approval” from the Federal Food and Drug Administration for coronavirus tests, treatments, medications, and other assorted needs.
The Associated Press adds that the measure is designed to help lessen American reliance on Chinese manufacturers for much-needed medical supplies.
“China is a key supplier of drug active ingredients, the chemical components that make drugs work, and finished medicines for the U.S. market,” AP said. “Those include the active ingredients for antibiotics and pills to treat common chronic conditions such as heart disease.”
Many of those “active ingredients” are eventually shipped to places like India, where they are made into medication, which is then sent to the United States. The supply chain does keep some costs down but in a global pandemic — particularly one that originates in China or southeast Asia — it can make necessary goods scarce.
Right now, U.S. efforts are focused on certain forms of antibiotics, anti-viral medications, and respiratory treatments, “all of which are used for supportive care of patients with coronavirus symptoms, because there is no approved medicine to treat the virus.”
“China has managed to dominate all aspects of the supply chain using the same unfair trade practices that it has used to dominate other sectors — cheap sweatshop labor, lax environmental regulations and massive government subsidies,” White House Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro told The New York Times Wednesday. “As President Trump has said, what we need to do is bring those jobs home so that we can protect the public health and the economic and national security of the country.”
Congress has also formed a “supply chain caucus” which, they say, will help “strengthen and add resiliency to protect the delivery system, which can be severely harmed by geopolitical events such as the recent coronavirus outbreak that has had significant impacts on global supply chains,” according to a statement from the panel released earlier this week.