Politics

Pentagon to free up 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 ventilators for coronavirus efforts

Key Points
  • Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the Pentagon is offering up to 2,000 deployable ventilators but the machines are different from those used by civilians and will require training.
  • He added that the U.S. government would need to seek support from industry on procuring more ventilators.
  • The virus has killed more than 7,167 people and infected more than 183,000 people around the world.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during the joint press conference with Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford (not in the picture) on August 28, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia.
China News Service | Visual China Group | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says it will give 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services from the military's strategic reserve in order to support the coronavirus response.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday from the Pentagon press briefing room that 1 million respirator masks would be made available immediately. 

Esper said the Pentagon is able to offer up to 2,000 deployable ventilators but that the machines are different from those used by civilians and will require training before operation. He added that the U.S. government would need to seek support from industry on procuring more ventilators.

"When you look at the number of people that are projected that may need ventilators, 2,000 doesn't really put much of a dent into it," Esper said.

"The key thing is the private sector, the manufacturing side, whoever makes medical machines of this type. How do you prime that pump to get production up because we are simply not going to be able to meet the demand if the demand fits some of the profiles as we've seen the CDC brief," he said.

The virus has already killed more than 7,167 people and infected more than 183,000 people around the world.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced it will keep the two highest-ranking Pentagon officials, Esper and Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, physically separated from each other as a precaution to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"Starting today, the secretary and the deputy secretary of Defense remain physically separated," Jonathan Hoffman, assistant defense secretary for public affairs, told a handful of reporters at the Pentagon and many more on a teleconference line.

"That means that they and their staff will only interact via teleconference. We are screening people that are entering the secretary's suite and limiting the number of people who have access as well," he added.

The Pentagon reservation employs more than 22,000 people, making it one of the largest office buildings in the world.

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