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3M said Friday it's working to comply with the Trump administration's order to speed up production of its N95 respirator masks under the Defense Production Act
The FDA-approved masks are desperately needed by health care employees working to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.
"We appreciate the authorities in the DPA that provide a framework for us to expand even further the work we are doing in response to the global pandemic crisis," 3M said in a statement promising to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Trump administration announced on Thursday that the president would be invoking the DPA, saying: "To ensure that our healthcare systems are able to surge capacity and capability to respond to the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that all health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19 are properly distributed to the nation’s healthcare systems and others that need them most at this time."
Trump added that the "health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19, including personal protective equipment and ventilators, meet the criteria specified in" the DPA.
3M said in its statement that the administration also ordered the company to cease all exports to Canada and Latin America.
"There are ... significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to health care workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a critical supplier of respirators," the company said.
It added that ceasing U.S. mask exports would also "likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same," which would decrease "the net number of respirators being made available to the United States."
After invoking the DPA on Thursday, Trump tweeted: "We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. 'P Act' all the way. Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing - will have a big price to pay!."
Forbes reported on March 31 that in just one day, roughly 280 million masks sitting in U.S. warehouses were distributed to foreign countries rather than to U.S. hospitals and health care centers that also need them.
The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association wrote a joint letter to Trump on March 21 calling on the administration to “immediately use the Defense Production Act to increase the domestic production of medical supplies and equipment that hospitals, health systems, physicians, nurses and all front-line providers so desperately need.”