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Trump to invoke Defense Production Act to expand production of hospital masks and more

President Donald Trump addresses the Nation from the Oval Office about the widening coronavirus crisis, Wednesday, March, 11, 2020. (POOL PHOTO by Doug Mills/The New York Times) NYTVIRUS

(CNN) — President Donald Trump said during Wednesday’s White House press briefing that he will be invoking the Defense Production Act to help make up for potential medical supply shortages as the US battles the coronavirus pandemic.

“Right after we finish this conference, I’ll be signing it and it’s prepared to go,” Trump said.

Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Sunday some doctors and nurses are already short on equipment such as gowns and gloves, and industry groups have been sounding the alarm with the Trump administration about possible shortages in supplies for several days, even weeks.

The major US lab industry group has also raised concerns with federal agencies over the past week about potential shortages of supplies, including N95 face masks and hand sanitizer.

CNN reported last month that the Trump administration was considering using the 1950 wartime law to expand the production of masks and protective gear to prevent the spread of the virus.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Defense Production Act will make available up to 5 million N95 masks and other personal protective equipment from US strategic reserves.

“The first 1 million masks will be available immediately,” he said.

He also said they are also prepared to distribute “up to 2,000 operational deployable ventilators for use as needed” the Department of Health and Human Services.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services told medical professionals on a conference call Monday that there was not enough personal protective equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile to fulfill anticipated gaps in state and local supplies, according to a source who was on the call. The call was confirmed to CNN by a Department of Health and Human Services official.

This story is breaking and will be updated.