U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, hopes to force President Donald Trump to do what’s necessary to get masks and other vital equipment to the doctors and nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Merkley introduced a Senate bill this week that demands the federal government use the Defense Production Act to immediately order 300 million N95 masks.
The N95 mask is the preferred mask for health care workers because it includes a respirator and fits close to the face. Both features help block viruses better than other masks.
The government’s purchase would spur businesses to ramp up production of personal protective equipment, Merkley said.
The president has announced he will invoke the Defense Production Act to get the equipment produced, but Merkley said that announcement wasn’t followed up with concrete plans.
“The time is right now to answer the urgent calls from our health care professionals for the protective equipment they need to do their jobs and help our communities battle the coronavirus crisis,” Merkley said in a press release. “The Defense Production Act is a commonsense, critical tool that can help us meet those critical needs, while also helping American manufacturers stay on the job.”
Merkley’s bill would mandate a national assessment on what medical supplies are needed, followed up by a purchase order to fill those needs.
It would also waive restrictions on how much money the government can spend on the equipment, and eliminate a waiting period for expensive orders.