Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted on Saturday that the company has donated “millions of masks for healthcare professionals in the United States and Europe” to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus. Cook’s tweet seems to confirm a statement made earlier today by Vice President Mike Pence.
“The president and I literally heard directly from Apple that they were donating 2 million industrial masks to this effort across the country and were working with our administration to distribute them,” Pence told a press briefing at the White House.
Our teams at Apple have worked to help supply the healthcare providers who are fighting COVID-19. We donate millions of masks to healthcare professionals in the United States and Europe. To each of the frontline heroes, we thank you.
– Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 21, 2020
How (and if) Apple was able to get the two million masks referenced Pence is unclear – The edge contacted the company for more information.
Masks are in great demand worldwide, but the supply is low. CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos said in a note to employees on Saturday that “masks are rare in the world”. The company has “placed orders for millions of face masks that we want to give to our employees and contractors who cannot work from home, but very few of these orders have been fulfilled,” wrote Bezos.
N95 respirators are disposable, well-fitting masks which can keep virus-laden droplets away from the wearer’s mouth and nose. Disease control and prevention centers notes that the effectiveness of masks is “highly dependent on proper adjustment and use.”
Pence said on Saturday that the Ministry of Health and Social Services “has placed an order for hundreds of millions of N95 masks”, the order being coordinated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It was not clear from Pence’s remarks where the masks were ordered and when they would be available.
The shortage of personal protective equipment such as face masks has become a serious problem for health professionals, with some using less effective masks or New york times reported. Last week, Pence called on construction companies to give their protective masks to hospitalsand stop ordering. “These industrial masks they use on construction sites are perfectly acceptable for health care workers to be protected against respiratory illness,” the vice president said on Tuesday.
But ProPublica reports there has been confusion about how these donations would be made, and the White House has not given clear instructions.
On Saturday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told reporters in the White House briefing room that it would be “sooner than weeks” for healthcare professionals to receive new masks. “We will try to make the days go as smoothly as possible,” he said.