US President Donald Trump has called for 600 million masks to be manufactured in the US over the next 18 months as US hospitals struggle to keep medical professionals safe.
Clothing company Hanes has been tasked with making masks and is retrofitting its factories to produce them.
“By way of example, Hanes … [is] retrofitting manufacturing capabilities in large sections of the plants to produce masks and they’re in the process right now,” the president told reporters on March 21.
In the press briefing, Vice President Mike Pence, appointed by Trump to lead the White House coronavirus task force, said that tech giant Apple will be donating millions of industrial-grade masks to health care workers.
“The president and I literally heard directly from Apple that they’re donating 2 million industrial masks to this effort around the country and working with our administration to distribute those,” Pence said.
Critical shortages of medical supplies
There have been severe shortages of medical supplies, including testing swabs, protective masks, surgical gowns and hand sanitizers, as imports from countries like China have fallen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the lockdown in China began following the outbreak of the virus, factories closed down to comply with a government order.
Supply sources then shifted from China to Honduras. However, supplies were shipped to Newark and did not arrive on the west coast, where the most severe COVID-19 cases were at the time.
Due to the shortage, healthcare professionals at many facilities have been told to wear bandanas and scarves instead when caring for coronavirus patients.
Healthcare workers told to “Reduce and reuse medical masks”
Medical professionals are rationing the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals across the US and many are reusing masks, an act that poses a huge risk to their safety.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has encouraged healthcare professionals to safely reuse their masks during the mask shortage period.
“Our hospital announced that we were going to have to be reusing our PPE, which the CDC has already released guidance on doing this and trying to do it safely. I’m not convinced it can be done safely. I think that this is unnecessarily exposing providers to risk,” a Boston anesthesiologist told CNN.
While the CDC acknowledged that the recommendations “are not commensurate with U.S. standards of care,” there appear to be no other options available at this time for hospitals in the midst of the crisis.
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters here!