United States Health and Services Secretary Alex Azar (right) speaking at a news conference next to President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, February 26, 2020. (Reuters)
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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s administration is considering invoking special powers through a law called the Defense Production Act to rapidly expand domestic manufacturing of protective masks and clothing to combat the coronavirus (Covid-19) in the United States, two US officials told Reuters.
The use of the law, 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.
US health officials have told Americans to begin preparing for the spread of the virus in the United States.
The law grants the president the power to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons. The biggest producers of face masks in the United States include 3M Corp, Honeywell International Inc and Kimberly-Clark Corp.
Trump, a Republican seeking re-election on November 3, has faced criticism from Democrats over his administration’s response to the outbreak.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told lawmakers this week that the United States needs a stockpile of about 300 million N95 face masks – respiratory protective devices – to combat the spread of the virus. The United States currently has only a fraction of that number available for immediate use, Azar testified. (Reuters)