Pence on coronavirus mask demand: '3M plays a vital role'

Health care workers are afraid they'll see a severe shortage of the protective equipment

Vice President Mike Pence met with 3M CEO Mike Roman and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz at the 3M Innovation Center in Maplewood, Minnesota, on Thursday to discuss 3M's response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Industrial giants Honeywell and 3M said in January that they would ramp up production of protective facial masks amid a shortage as the virus spreads.

MASKS STILL AVAILABLE ONLINE AMID CORONAVIRUS SCARE, BUT SURGEON GENERAL SAYS DON'T ADD TO CART

"We couldn't be more grateful for the efforts of American business leaders, companies like 3M, coming alongside and ensuring our nation has the resources … to be able to deal with coronavirus," Pence said. "3M plays a vital role."

Trump and Pence in the White House Wednesday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Senators grilled Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar about the U.S. stockpile of facemasks last week, and other members of the coronavirus task force have said that the administration is partnering with the private sector to ramp up the production of such supplies.

"We want to make sure your health care workers have the personal protective equipment … as they continue to deal with coronavirus," Pence said on Thursday. "To the average American, how you can help as well, unless you are ill, you have no need to buy a mask."

Pence, speaking to Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures," warned that "we know that there will be many more cases" of coronavirus in the U.S. and that President Trump had ordered the stockpile of masks to increase from 43 million to approximately "that amount on a monthly basis."

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
HON HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC. 202.30 -2.15 -1.05%
MMM 3M CO. 173.75 +0.95 +0.55%

Senate Democrats including Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have been highly critical of the administration's handling of the outbreak. Murray said the U.S. needs more masks after at least 10 coronavirus deaths in her state, and her office has called the administration's response "chaotic and delayed."

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

Health care workers are afraid they'll see a severe shortage of the protective equipment they need as the general public buys the items up. Ninety-six percent of local U.S. pharmacies said they were selling masks faster than they could replace them, according to a survey published Feb. 6 by The National Community Pharmacists Association.

Pence also touted that Congress is "poised" to act on a multibillion-dollar supplemental spending deal to combat coronavirus before the discussion.

FOX News' Gregg Re contributed to this report.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS