Mar 24, 2020

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green and with reporting from Joann Muller, Bob Herman and Erica Pandey — is 500 words, a 2-minute read.

  • 🚨 Stocks closed up more than 9% today, marking yet another day of huge moves in the stock market amid the coronavirus pandemic.
1 big thing: Protecting the front lines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America's new goalpost: Build tens of thousands of ventilators and assemble and reuse billions of face masks in the next few weeks to ward off some of the worst-case scenarios from the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Why it matters: We need to give medical professionals, first responders and essential personnel (like grocery store staff) every possible tool to treat the ill and avoid getting sick themselves.

The first wave of need is right now: New York has 7,000 ventilators and needs 30,000 — and America's essential personnel need an estimated 3.5 billion N95 masks.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pleading with the Trump administration for help. He is asking it to use the Defense Production Act for ventilator production and to tap the federal stockpile to provide 20,000 machines. VP Mike Pence said today that 4,000 more are on the way.
  • Cuomo says he needs the ventilator stockpile during the next few weeks, then he promises to pass them to other parts of the country.

The second wave is coming fast: As outbreaks grow in other states, manufacturers will be needed to dramatically expand the national capacity.

Face masks and protective gear:

  • Firms such as Honeywell and 3M are expanding their N95 production.
  • Ford will start producing 100,000 plastic face shields per week.
  • 3M is working with Ford to pump out powered air-purifying respirators.
  • The FDA is easing rules for importing needed products, including personal protective equipment like N95s, into the U.S.
  • Many hospitals are starting to disinfect and reuse respirator masks with UV light machines while they wait for backlogged supply.

Ventilators:

  • Companies that include GE Healthcare, Ford and Ventec Life Systems are ramping up production.
  • The FDA has relaxed some regulations to allow modifications, a critical step.
  • Yes, but: Ventilators need to be used in properly equipped, sanitized units, and many rural areas simply don’t have those types of rooms. They also require skilled personnel to keep them running.

The bottom line: President Trump says he hopes the country can start returning to normal by Easter.

Go deeper: American manufacturing vs. the coronavirus

Bonus: Pics du jour
Photo: Wong Maye-E/AP

Above: Sheila Williams tells people waiting in a Brooklyn line for their food donations to keep bigger distances between one another.

Below: Volunteers and government workers are disinfected inside a cubicle before they enter the local city hall in Manila, Philippines.

Photo: Aaron Favila/AP
2. Catch up quick
  1. Federal government latest: President Trump said he wants the U.S. "opened up" by Easter (April 12), despite warnings from public health officials.
  2. World update: Italy's death toll rose again by 743 over the past 24 hours, breaking a series of declines in its daily death count.
  3. Public health update: Trade groups representing hospitals, doctors and nurses called on the public to stay at home.
  4. 🚀 1 space thing: Astronauts offer self-isolation advice.
3. 1 good thing

Spotted in a living room in Greer, South Carolina. Photo: Christina Hunter via AP

American households are also stepping up to help protect health care workers and other essential personnel while U.S. manufacturers race to catch up, AP reports.

  • Bill Purdue waterproofs basements for a living, but he has spent the past few days cutting rectangles of cotton fabric that his friend sews into face masks.
  • Fashion designer Briana Danyele is making masks that she embroiders with the words, “We Got This!”

Why it matters: Hospitals, doctors and nurses are so desperate for personal protective equipment amid the viral pandemic that they’ve turned to the public, saying do-it-yourself face masks are better than nothing.

Mike Allen