Yesterday, speaking with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave an update on the availability of equipment needed for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Pence said there has been a large increase in the supply of medical masks, thanks to help from Honeywell International (HON 1.14%) and 3M Co. (MMM 0.72%).

He said Honeywell has converted a factory that had planned to move production to Mexico, and is now going to produce 120 million masks per year. 3M, which the vice P\president visited earlier this month, has increased its N95 respirator production to a rate of 420 million per year. 

Artist's rendering of N95 respirator mask covering the globe with virus symbols floating around

Image source: Getty Images.

Directly to hospitals

Pence said he has told governors to ensure that healthcare providers in their states are placing orders directly for the needed equipment. He said the increase in production has made supply available, and stressed "those resources are now there."

Also yesterday, 3M put out a statement in which Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mike Roman said his company was providing supplies where needed, and it was working to ensure that supply chains maintain availability of products including respirators, cleaning supplies, and surgical masks. Roman also stated that 3M was increasing production at global manufacturing sites by activating more production lines, hiring new workers, and adding shifts. 

The vice president also addressed a question regarding a CDC directive titled "Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks." It includes a "crisis strategy" of exploring the use of homemade masks made from bandanas or scarfs when masks aren't available. Pence said the resources are currently available, and healthcare providers can access them directly, without resorting to this.