After China and Italy, America is another country that was hit devastatingly by the coronavirus disease. As of November 2020, there have been more than 9,100,000 deaths caused by the deadly virus and about 230,000 cases are still active in the country at the moment. Moreover, the US has had one of the highest numbers of deaths by the virus and also accounts for about 20% of deaths worldwide. It is not a fact unknown anymore that the US has suffered a lot during this pandemic and the country’s economy isn’t very sound at the current moment either.
Things started getting out of hand for the US officials during the first wave of the virus. The country’s economy had plummeted suddenly as the emergence of newer cases multiplied each day and the mortality rate also began to climb higher. During all these problems, there was another additional and major problem that the country had to deal with and that was the scarcity of personal protective equipment such as N95 masks. N95 masks during this pandemic served the same purpose as that of plate armor due to its 95% protection against airborne particulates, which also includes COVID-19.
So to procure N95 masks for America, a number of steps were taken by the government such as asking N95 manufacturers to stop the export of these respirators for other countries and advising civilians who were not associated with the medical sector to wear cloth masks only. Since healthcare workers were more in need of respirators such as the N95 as they were the ones working in such proximity of this virus. In addition to this, the Defense Production Act was also invoked by the White House ordering the department to produce over 39 million N95 masks and other PPE such as gowns and face-shields.
What is the Defense Production Act?
This act is wartime law of the 1950s and its implication will allow the US government to pressure N95 manufacturing companies to produce N95 masks for the safety of the nation. According to this act, over 39 million masks will be produced for the US by different companies and as a result, the government will incur a cost of $133 million. Furthermore, this act also enables the president to ask companies to prioritize orders from the government instead of other customers, and in light of this, the president had also ordered 3M to stop exporting masks to its other customers such as Canada.
Even though this act did amp up the production of PPE but still this Act itself alone wasn’t able to provide sufficient masks as the country was badly affected by COVID at the time and healthcare workers had even resorted to reusing N95 masks which are disposable and originally meant to be used once only. In conclusion, this act was only a half solution for such a major problem and couldn’t alone curb the absence of N95s in America.
Companies that were awarded the contract of DPA
Three major companies were granted the contracts and were made indirect participants of this act. These three major companies are as following:
3M is the leading American company dealing in consumer goods, worker safety, and health care. The company is based in Minnesota and is a trusted name when it comes to PPE such as the N95 masks. What this contract had in store for 3M was that the company will add 78 million units of masks in 6 months and will further add 13 million units every month until June. In order to comply with these orders, 3M expanded its production and sped up its manufacturing process in order to abide by the contract.
This is another company dealing with healthcare-related products and was trusted by the US government to be granted a contract for the DPA, according to which the company will go on to manufacture 25 million units in 6 months’ time. And the addition of 12.5 million masks each month afterward. To comply with this order, O&M Halyard has expanded its production of meltdown material as well.
Honeywell is an international company headquartered in North Carolina, America that also deals with safety products. As per the Defense Production Act, the company was ordered to produce 38 million units of mask in a span of 6 months and 12 million masks each month afterward. After completing this contract the company will also ramp-up production in their Arizona and Phoenix branch to further alleviate the scarcity of this product in those regions.
The Defense Production Time has been invoked in the country after a very long time was done so because it was the need of the hour. The act served as a push-factor for companies as it required them to fulfill the requirement of N95 masks in the shortest time possible. This act played a great role in ensuring the availability of N95 masks for healthcare workers in the United States. Although this act didn’t solve the shortage of N95 holistically it did play its part in reducing this problem for some workers of the medical sector to an extent.
The companies that are involved in this act were all internationally recognized companies and more than capable of fulfilling the contract in the given time.