According to an investigative report published by The Washington Post on Saturday, the Trump administration received detailed plans for a new machine designed to churn out millions of protective respirator masks at high speed during a pandemic.
The plans, submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by medical manufacturer O&M Halyard, in September 2018, were the culmination of a venture unveiled almost three years earlier by the Obama administration.
But the Trump administration did not proceed with making the machine after President Trump squashed the project.
According to The Post, the project was one of two N95 mask ventures — totaling $9.8 million — that the federal government embarked on over the past five years to better prepare for pandemics.
The other involves the development of reusable masks to replace the single-use variety currently so scarce that medical professionals are using theirs over and over.
An HHS spokesperson, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post that although Halyard’s plans were feasible, no funding was available to build the machine.
Uh? The federal government didn’t have money to prepare for a pandemic, but gave the wealthiest Americans $1 Trillion in tax cuts?
HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, the department that solicited the Halyard design, had a budget of nearly $1.5 billion for 2020, according to an HHS report.
Amid the current crisis, the design remains available, according to the spokesperson, who said, “Implementing this design along with use of more proven mask manufacturing techniques are being considered by a supply chain task force to reduce N95 shortages.”
Howard Cohen, a professor of occupational safety at the University of New Haven, said “it is sad, because we really did see this coming. We saw the shortfall. And there were a bunch of things that potentially could have been done and weren’t.”
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