The Trump administration is asking construction companies to donate their inventories of face masks to local hospitals and forgo ordering more due to a global shortage in response to the novel coronavirus.
Why it matters: Health care workers are experiencing a shortage of N95 fitted masks, a necessary tool to prevent healthy people from getting sick because they help block 95% of microbes. Construction workers often use face masks at work, and the White House has deemed those industrial masks "perfectly acceptable" for health care workers.
By the numbers: Currently, the U.S. has about 160,000 ventilators. In a "severe" pandemic like the Spanish flu of 1918, the country would need about 740,000, per a study by the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins.
What Vice President Mike Pence is saying:
"We would make one specific request, and that is we would urge construction companies to donate their inventory of N95 masks to your local hospital and forgo additional orders of those industrial masks. Because of what the president asked to be included in legislation moving through the Congress today, those industrial masks that they use on construction sites are perfectly acceptable for health care workers to be protected from a respiratory disease.
"We are asking construction companies that our president knows very well from his background. We are asking them to donate their N95 masks to their local hospitals and also forgo making additional orders."