Army 1st Lt. Liston Barber administers an N95 respirator fit test for Air Force 1st Lt. Jennifer Rossi, registered nurse, at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Friday. The Department of Defense on Tuesday awarded $133 million to three contractors to increase production of the masks. Photo by Jason W. Edwards/U.S. Army
April 21 (UPI) -- The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it is awarding $133 million to increase domestic production of N95 masks by over 39 million over the next 90 days.
Under the deal, 3M will receive $76 million, O&M Halyward will receive $29 million and Honeywell will receive $27.4 million to make the masks, which have been in short supply since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Department of Defense, the investment is intended to ensure the United States government "gets dedicated long term industrial capacity to meet the needs of the nation."
3M is contracted to provide 78 million units within six months, with an additional 13 million units per month by June, where O&M Halyward will add 25 million units within 6 months and an additional 12.5 million masks every month after. Under the contract Honeywell will add 38 million units within six months and 12 million units per month after.
On Tuesday attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia sent a letter to 3M CEO and board Chairman Michael Romando calling on the company more to fight price gouging, saying their offices have been flooded with complaints about excessive prices for the respirators.
Also on Tuesday, National Nurses United, the largest union of nurses in the United States, protested at the White House to demand President Donald Trump "use his authority under the Defense Production Act to order the mass production of PPE, including N95 respirators, face shields, gowns, gloves and shoe coverings, as well as ventilators and COVID-19 testing kits."
Earlier this month the Pentagon awarded an $86.4 million contract to Aurora Industries to provide face masks for the Defense Logistics Agency and last week Battelle Industries was awarded a $415 million deal to decontaminate N95 respirators, increasing the number of times they can be used twentyfold.