Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday that the government has contracted with Minnesota’s 3M to make more facemasks in the fight against coronavirus.
“As the president said, we have more than 40 million masks available today,” Pence said at a news conference in which he appeared with President Donald Trump and health officials. “We’ve contracted now with 3M to — 35 million more masks per month will be produced, and we’re also going to be working with other manufacturers.”
It’s unclear whether he was suggesting that 3M will be making 35 million more masks a month, or whether 3M and other companies would be doing so.
Jennifer Ehrlich, a 3M communications manager said in an e-mail late Saturday that any information about government contracts for respirators would have to come from the Office of the Vice President.
However, Ehrlich added, “Just to clarify, we are not yet under contract for the volume mentioned today. However, we are preparing to respond to the U.S. administration’s request for a proposal for respirators. 3M continues to maximize production at its manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and around the world for all types of N95 respirators.”
The N95 respirator 3M makes can block the coronavirus from moving from an infected person into the air. They are not recommended for use by people who are not infected as a means of blocking the virus.
“The average American does not need to go out and buy a mask,” Pence said. He said they should be used only by those infected and by health care workers exposed to them.