White House Weighs Use of Defense Law for Coronavirus Supplies

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration may invoke the Defense Production Act to force manufacturers to produce needed supplies to combat coronavirus, said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

That could include manufacturing face masks needed by medical workers, for which the administration has said there could be a shortage in the event of an outbreak. No decision has been made on invoking the act, Azar told reporters on Friday.

White House Weighs Use of Defense Law for Coronavirus Supplies

“We’ll use it if we need it,” he said. “I don’t have any procurements I need it for right yet.”

The comments came during a briefing set up by the Trump administration to ease fears about the spread of the virus.

The briefing came after the World Health Organization raised the global risk for coronavirus to “very high” from “high.” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank is prepared to cut interest rates. Amazon.com Inc. asked workers to avoid non-essential travel.

The Trump administration expects Congress to pass a coronavirus funding measure as soon as early next week, White House Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Ueland told reporters. He said it’s needed within two weeks.

Azar said the administration can’t undertake all the preparation needed without more money and is moving forward with a $136 million transfer of funds from other areas.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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