The Trump administration plans to use the Defense Production Act for the first time during this coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday to procure thousands of COVID-19 test kits as the disease continues its spread across the country.
Peter Gaynor, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN that the administration had decided to use the Defense Production Act to acquire some 60,000 kits. The FEMA chief added that the White House will add "DPA language" into its mass contract for 500 million masks.
"We're actually going to use the DPA for the first time today. There are some test kits we need to get our hands on," he told CNN. "And the second thing we're going to do is we're going to insert some language into these mass contracts that we have."
"So we're going to use it. We're going to use it when we need it. And we're going to use it today," Gaynor said.
Neither the White House nor Trump senior advisor Peter Navarro responded to CNBC's request for comment.
The DPA, passed into law in 1950 at the start of the Korean War, empowers the White House to require and provide incentives to businesses to produce goods to support U.S. national defense. The statute also allows the president control over the distribution of said goods, though it does not permit the government to take ownership of companies or industries.
Gaynor's comments came as the number of global COVID-19 cases surged to over 387,000 and instances in the U.S. totaled at least 46,000. The global pandemic has forced scores of federal, state and local governments to impose lockdowns, bar social gatherings and restrict travel in an effort to slow the spread of the illness.
More than 16,000 people have died as a result of the virus, with nearly 600 deaths in the U.S.
In an effort to slow the disease's spread, the U.S. federal government is working closely with some of the nation's largest manufacturers, including 3M and others, to accelerate the production of health-care equipment like masks and ventilators.
3M said on Sunday that it is sending to New York and Seattle a half-million N95 respirator masks in response to the ongoing shortage of health-care equipment. Honeywell and Kimberly-Clark are also producing N95 masks for health-care workers and others exposed to the virus.
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