American industry is enlisting to fight in the war against coronavirus.
It's been two weeks now since President Trump announced he will exercise his powers under the Defense Production Act to mobilize industry to combat the novel coronavirus and slow the spread of COVID-19. In some cases, the DPA has already been invoked to demand that companies utilize their production facilities to produce essential medical equipment, such as ventilators. In other cases -- cases like today's -- the simple invocation of DPA has inspired industry titans to make moves on their own.
This morning, oil major ExxonMobil (XOM -0.32%) announced it is partnering with the Georgia Institute of Technology's Global Center for Medical Innovation to design and produce "reusable personal protection equipment" such as face shields and masks, for use by healthcare workers treating patients afflicted with COVID-19.
Exxon's first project will be to design a new "industrial-style mask" that "improves coverage of a healthcare worker's nose and mouth and will use a replaceable cartridge system" to filter out contaminants.
The design in question pairs a robust face mask that can "withstand repeated sterilization, thus prolonging the life-cycle of the product" with a replaceable "filtration fabric" cartridge that is disposable after use. Exxon hopes the device will address "shortages of N95 masks" being produced by other manufacturers.
Exxon already has prototypes ready, "being tested and reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," and contract manufacturers lined up to produce "as many as 40,000 ready-to-use masks and filter cartridges per hour."
Upon receiving a green light from the FDA, Exxon says "production will begin immediately."