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President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued an executive order to increase the availability of respirators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall take all appropriate and necessary steps with respect to general use respirators to facilitate their emergency use by healthcare personnel in healthcare facilities and elsewhere," the order said.
Healthcare workers and coronavirus patients should wear N95 masks to reduce the likelihood that they pass the illness onto someone else, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
But the rapid spread of COVID-19 has strained respirator supplies, prompting the CDC to loosen its guidelines to allow healthcare workers to wear surgical masks that don't fit as tightly as the preferred N95 masks, which filter roughly 95% of airborne particles.
"Facemasks are an acceptable alternative when the supply chain of respirators cannot meet the demand," the CDC said in its guidance.
The executive order was met with industry support, after they expressed concern about the lack of key medical supplies for weeks.
"The executive order creates opportunity for the United States to increase domestic manufacturing quickly to protect the public in light of the global pandemic," said Michael Alkire, president of Premier Inc. "Coordination and collaboration between private sector and the government is critical to ensuring a streamlined regulatory approval process and efficient supply chain so these products are made available expeditiously."