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Photo: Roland Weihrauch/picture alliance via Getty Images

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday temporarily relaxed certain policy guidelines that could allow manufacturers to produce more ventilators.

Why it matters: Automakers, parts suppliers and other industrial companies have offered to lend their manufacturing expertise in a wartime-like mobilization to combat the global pandemic. But without some easing of the FDA's strict validation process for medical devices, it can't happen.

What's new: The FDA issued new temporary guidelines that would give ventilator manufacturers more flexibility in the design of the machines, the materials used and manufacturing processes to clear existing bottlenecks.

  • They could, potentially, purchase a different type of motor from an alternate supplier, or use different types of plastic in the ventilator tubes, for example.
  • "We believe this approach will help manufacturers that want to add production lines or manufacture at alternative sites which may have different manufacturing equipment to increase manufacturing capacity," the FDA said.

President Trump caused confusion Sunday when he tweeted: "Ford, General Motors and Tesla are being given the go ahead to make ventilators and other metal products, FAST!"

Reality check: Carmakers are starting from a standstill, trying to learn about ventilators, who makes them, what their capacity issues are, and how the auto industry can help.

  • There is no federal orchestration of the process, so companies are leveraging their own networks for information.
  • Nor is it clear if automakers, whose own businesses are reeling from virus-related shutdowns, will be paid, and by whom.

The most likely scenario: Companies like GM and Ford could use their global scale to lean on suppliers, including raw materials suppliers, to speed delivery of components to ventilator manufacturers.

  • They could also share high-volume production techniques to maximize output.
  • Car factories switching to ventilator manufacturing is a long shot, but it could happen down the road.

The big question: Can any of this happen quickly enough to make a difference?

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said New York is days away from running out of ventilators and other medical supplies.
  • Honeywell, which already makes N95 masks, said Sunday it could take 30 days to start up a new production facility in Rhode Island.

The bottom line: There's a desperate need for medical equipment, and it's not clear how manufacturers will be able to meet the need.

Go deeper

Updated 53 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.

Australian Open organizers reverse "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirt ban

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai during the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo: Bai Xue/Xinhua via Getty Images

Australian Open organizers on Tuesday reversed a ban on t-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai following widespread criticism.

Why it matters: Tennis Australia's announcement came less than 24 hours after the governing body defended the decision to ask fans last Friday to remove "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirts, citing ticket policy prohibiting political clothing, per the BBC.