Ford: Right now we’re focused on making much needed respirators and face masks, not trucks

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With worries increasing over availability (or really, a lack thereof) of certain medical devices and supplies to combat COVID-19 spread and alleviate symptoms, Ford has begun work on using their facilities to develop additional respirators.

The automotive industry giant has began collaborating with 3M to help redesign the powered air-purifying respirator, or PAPR.

Innovations in the design could help protect both first responders and health care workers from contracting COVID-19 while interacting with patients.

Ford had utilized existing technology that they’ve used to ventilate the seats of their F-150 model.

In tune with the Ford tech is 3M’s HEPA filters accompanied by a battery typically used for portable power tools.

At their Advanced Manufacturing Center, Ford is looking to get them into production of 1000 units out per month. Assuming no problems present themselves in the production, Ford would only look to scale up manufacturing from there.

Ford also is working alongside GE Healthcare to see if a simplified version of the healthcare company’s existing ventilators can be mass-produced within a Ford facility.

This is also on top of the motor vehicle company getting to work on transparent face-shields that can be used by the healthcare industry in light of COVID-19.

The company anticipates that those face-shields will start manufacturing at a rate of 100,000 units per-week by the end of March.

Bill Ford, Ford’s Executive Chairman, stated the following about the ongoing work:

“We’re doing it on our own. Obviously, the White House has put a call out for companies to help but, frankly, we were doing this, getting all this in motion before that. We’re so happy to help and we’re going to do absolutely everything we can.”

As if the company wasn’t doing enough already, Bill Ford also mentioned the following regarding compensation for the work the company is putting in:

“We haven’t talked to anybody about any kind of reimbursement or anything like that.”

This pandemic has really shown us which individuals and what companies are stepping up to the plate to assist in our country’s time of need. From all of us at Law Enforcement Today, we’d like to thank Ford for the work they’re putting in to assist all of us in need.

Could various medical supply shortages been avoided altogether though? With regard to N95, that seems to be the case – stemming back to 2009!

Law Enforcement Today is learning from news sources that the current shortage of N95 respirator masks goes back to 2009 after the H1N1 swine flu pandemic. In a shocking report citing the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg NewsBreitbart News is reporting that the Obama administration was advised to replenish the stockpile of masks, however ignored requests to do so.

Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration is scrambling to replenish a stockpile of PPE, or personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, first responders and patients as the country deals with the virus. One of the most needed medical supplies are the N95 respirator masks.

In 2005, the administration under George W. Bush published the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Plan, which called on the federal government to distribute medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, which is governed by the Health and Human Services Department, in the event of an epidemic.

The H1N1 struck the U.S. in 2009, which led to over 274,000 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths, in addition to a depletion of the N95 masks.

The current situation that the country finds itself in is hardly new. In the 2009 pandemic, hospitals were running out of test kits in Galveston, Texas. Meanwhile the Loma Linda University Medical Center in San Bernardino, Calif., had to set up tents to handle the onslaught of patients. In New York, hospitals rushed to bring on additional emergency staff. Just as now, it appeared that the US healthcare system would be overrun.  

While the nation dodged a bullet, the lesson should have been learned; the country was in need of large stores of medical supplies and hospitals that were prepared to handle a large influx of sick patients.

Fast forward eleven years, and we are still in the same boat. The same gaps that existed back then are rearing their ugly heads now. Protective masks are in short supply, as are ventilators, ICU beds and other resources.

In order to prevent overwhelming the medical system, schools and businesses have been closed, to “flatten the curve” so as to not crush the nation’s healthcare system.

After what happened in 2009, a federally backed task force recommended to the Obama administration that the nation’s supply be replenished with the 100 million masks used during the H1N1 outbreak.

Charles Johnson, president of the International Safety Equipment Association said that the advice was ignored.

“Our association is unaware of any major effort to restore the stockpile to cover that drawdown,” he said.

Last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that only 12 million N95 masks were available in the stockpile, which is a mere fraction of the number of masks that the healthcare system would need, estimated at 3.5 billion, according to one of Azar’s deputies, the LA Times noted.

Bloomberg News reported similar findings last week.

“After the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009, which triggered a nationwide shortage of masks an caused a 2-to 3-year backlog [of] orders for the N95 variety, the stockpile distributed about three-quarters of its inventory and didn’t build back the supply.”

Bloomberg also reported that the Trump administration had asked construction companies to “donate their inventory of N95 masks to your local hospital and forgo additional orders of those industrial masks” and the Defense Department would provide an additional five million N95 masks and 2,000 ventilators to assist in bridging the gap.

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As of this March 24th, Johns Hopkins University had reported 46,805 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., which was a jump from 35,225 cases reported on Monday. Certainly, the virus is increasing exponentially, as predicted.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading the Trump administrations coronavirus task force, said on Sunday that a quarter-million people had been tested for the virus, with 90% of those testing negative. Pence also noted that, “the FDA is working with manufacturers around the company to come up with faster, more innovative tests,” he said.

The Times said that across the country, medical centers are running out of PPE, which exacerbates the challenges caused by the federal government’s inadequate supply of coronavirus testing kits.

Some hospitals have actually gotten to the point where they are actually signing out masks and other protective equipment just as they handle narcotics.

“We’ve never had to do that before,” said Karen Teitelbaum of Sinai Health System in Chicago.

Dr. Eric Toner of Johns Hopkins University, an authority on pandemic preparedness, said that making the case for investments in material and hospital planning has long been a challenge, as most people have difficulty envisioning a major disaster.

He also noted that in many cases, hospitals are cash strapped, especially since most hospitals have canceled elective procedures to prepare for the pandemic, which has ended up reducing revenue.

Toner argues that strains such as this are why the federal government should have stepped up ahead of time.

“The argument we’ve made for 20 years is that if we want to have prepared healthcare institutions, this has to be a societal responsibility, and that means a government responsibility.”

The federal Hospital Preparedness program was created after the September 11 terrorist attacks as a means to help hospitals plan for major public health emergencies, as well as terrorist attacks.

Congress steadily cut the program as time went on. For example in 2007, Congress cut $44 million from the program’s budget; in 2014, they cut $120 million.

John Auerbach, chief executive of Trust for America’s Health said that overall, money for the program has been cut approximately in half since 2003. He noted that he and other public health officials have been pleading with Congress for years to restore the spending. It fell on deaf ears.  

As Congress is currently looking at an aid package relative to the pandemic, perhaps instead of focusing on pork barrel projects such as PBS, the JFK Center for the Performing Arts, and Planned Parenthood, they could divert some of that money toward preparing us for the next pandemic.

Decisions like these are why people hate the federal government. Priorities.


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