- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Trump administration is expanding the strategic national stockpile of medical supplies for COVID-19, with a target of one billion N-95 masks, to be ready for a possible resurgence of the disease in the fall, officials said Thursday.

Senior administration officials said the effort of manufacturing more supplies, and moving more of the medical supply chain back to the U.S., is aimed in part at enabling more people to keep working if there’s a surge of new cases after the summer season.

“A big part of this effort is to make sure that people can go back to work in the fall,” an official said. “Not only will we be prepared if something comes up; the more that we stimulate the domestic supply and bring the supply into America, the more that industry and people will have the masks and protective equipment they need to safely return to work.”

Senior administration officials said the stockpile of masks was depleted during the 2009 pandemic, which reduced the supply from about 100 million to 13 million. They said the Obama administration didn’t replenish that supply.

“At the start of this administration, we had 13 million N-95 masks,” an official said. “We have an aspiration to eventually have one billion of those. We’re not going to have all of those for the fall, but we do anticipate having 300 million.”

Officials said the ramping up of supplies will not be done through the Defense Production Act, which allows the president to order private companies to manufacture needed items. They didn’t provide an estimated cost of the effort.

But they said the U.S. is building about 200,000 ventilators, enough of a surplus that President Trump has been offering the machines to other countries. Last year, they said, the U.S. made about 30,000 ventilators.

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