The Defense Production Act gives the executive branch a wide range of powers to influence the nation's industrial base for national defense, including the production of essential goods and materials. The administration will likely use its ability to steer private businesses to increase U.S. production of N95 masks and other critical medical supplies and devices.
Hospitals, experts and policymakers asked the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act earlier, warning the administration for weeks that there's a critical lack of ventilators and other devices and supplies to address COVID-19.
"Well, you know hospitals are supposed to have ventilators too," President Donald Trump said after he was asked why it took so long for the administration to act. "This is a very unforeseen thing, nobody ever thought of these numbers."
The coronavirus outbreak has strained medical supply chains because many devices and supplies are made in China or by a small number of firms.
HHS will also publish a regulation Wednesday that will allow all doctors and medical professionals to practice across state lines, according to Vice President Mike Pence.
The CMS will publish detailed recommendations about how to conserve personal protective equipment by limiting non-essential, elective medical and surgical procedures.
"We believe that these recommendations will help surgeons, patients and hospitals prioritize what is essential while leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of state and local health officials and those clinicians who have direct responsibility to their patients," CMS Administrator Seema Verma said.
Under the Defense Production Act, the president can require businesses to prioritize and accept government contracts and incentivize firms to produce critical goods and services through loans and other mechanisms, according to the Congressional Research Service, an in-house think tank for Congress.