In testimony before Congress on U.S. coronavirus (COVID-19) response, chairwoman DeLauro asked CDC Director Robert Redfield for help addressing what she believes to be misallocation of the first batch of 35 million masks manufactured by 3M. Only 4 million of the 35 million masks to be manufactured by 3M will be allocated to health care workers and hospitals; the rest go to the commercial sectors. Why? Insurance issues.
“It is only 4 million because that is all that 3M has, stated Ms. Delauro. “And without some notion of indemnification… we need the strength of the administration to say ‘get more insurance’ so we can move forward. It is wrong to stop because at 4 million we just can’t get there and there is no answer to this.”
3M’s manufacturing capacity is 35 million masks a month; the U.S. government is buying 500 million masks to stock against coronavirus and future outbreaks. Local hospitals are already reporting shortages of N95 face masks. And with Germany joining South Korea in banning the export of masks, the reduced ability to source masks from overseas risks making the allocation issue even more serious. Currently, the U.S. only has 1 percent of the 3.5 billion masks needed to combat the virus.