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Defense Production Act Contract to Provide 39 Million Masks

April 14, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

A Defense Department contract under the Defense Production Act will provide more than 39 million N95 respirator masks over the next 90 days to help in the fight against the coronavirus, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.

"This will help ensure our government has the industrial capacity to meet the nation's needs," Esper said during a Pentagon news conference today.

A service member wears a paper mask.  He holds a device up to his face that generates smoke.
200313-F-BN304-084
An airman receives a cloud of smoke to test the ventilation of his N95 mask in Southwest Asia, March 13, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alexandre Montes
VIRIN: 200313-F-BN304-084
A man in hospital scrubs and wearing a mask configures medical equipment.
Machine Prep
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Abbe prepares a dialysis machine aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York City, April 13, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Class Sara Eshleman
VIRIN: 200413-N-EV253-1039

Also, he said, a $415 million contract awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency is providing 60 systems that can decontaminate as many as 80,000 N95 respirator masks each day, allowing those masks to be reused.

"This will allow medical professionals to reuse masks up to 20 times and will reduce the nation's need for new inventory," Esper said. Six decontamination units have already been delivered to cities including New York; Columbus, Ohio; Boston; Chicago; and Tacoma, Washington, and the rest should be available by early May, he added.

Combined, the 60 systems will allow for the decontamination of some 4.8 million masks each day once they're all in place. Distribution of those systems will be handled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, Esper said.

50:13

DOD has delivered 10 million of the new N95 masks to FEMA and HHS already, the secretary said, and is prepared to provide 10 million more.

The Defense Department has more than 50,000 service members from all services deployed in support of the fight against the coronavirus, Esper told reporters, with more than 4,000 of those being military doctors, nurses and medical professionals. Around 2,100 of those are now in New York City, including 300 who are in civilian hospitals to relieve civilian medical professionals.

Experience has shown that local hospitals in cities such as New York do, in fact, have the number of beds needed to treat patients, but that medical professionals in those facilities have been overtaxed, Esper said, so that is where the U.S. military is focusing its assistance now.

Service members work together to assemble equipment in a large indoor area.
Hospital
Soldiers and airmen from the Connecticut National Guard set up field hospital beds at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn., April 11, 2020. The site will contain more than 600 beds and will serve as potential hospital surge capacity for patients recovering from COVID-19.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker, Connecticut Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200411-Z-DY403-027M

"What's obviously become strained, stressed, are these hard-working nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists and everybody who's been at this now for weeks," he said. "They're getting burned out and worn down." They're also falling victim to the coronavirus themselves, he added.

"So that's where we've now pivoted in the last week or so — to move our doctors — and we're doing that now," Esper said. DOD is moving some doctors off the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, which is docked in New York, and putting them into the New York City hospitals to provide relief, he said.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley stand at lecterns in front of a few seated civilians.
Leader Briefing
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, host a news briefing at the Pentagon on Defense Department support to COVID-19 response efforts, April 14, 2020.
Photo By: Marvin Lynchard, DOD
VIRIN: 200414-D-FW736-3003Y

Meanwhile, Esper said, the department is deploying 14 Army urban augmentation medical task forces to priority regions. Six of those task forces are in New York, three are in New Jersey, two are in Massachusetts, and Connecticut, Michigan and Pennsylvania have one each.

The Navy, he said, now has fully established expeditionary medic medical facilities in New Orleans and Dallas, while the Army Corps of Engineers is constructing 25 alternate care facilities around the nation that are expected to make available an additional 15,500 beds in cities such as New York, Detroit and Chicago. Construction of a 450-bed medical facility in Miami also is being discussed, Esper said.