U.S. manufacturing is “stepping up” to produce medical products needed to treat cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the head of a major trade and lobbying group said today.
“They’re stepping up to keep supplying the essentials,” Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers, said during a news conference.
Companies are producing gloves, protective face masks and other products used by health care workers, Timmons said.
“We’ve heard from 1,600 companies willing to step up and keep this country healthy,” the NAM chief said. “The response is strong and growing.”
Timmons said he was neutral about whether the Defense Production Act should be used to force manufacturers to produce respirators and other key medical equipment. President Donald Trump has invoked the act but has been restrained in using it.
“I am completely agnostic on this front,” he said in response to a question. “We believe manufacturers are able to step up. Obviously, we would have liked to get an earlier start on this.”
The coronavirus began in China in late 2019. It has spread globally. In the U.S., many states have closed schools, restaurants and businesses considered non-essential.
Companies and groups still operating have employees working from home. Timmons, for example, appeared to be conducting the news conference from a home office.
The idea is to slow down the rate of infection so medical providers aren’t overwhelmed.
The economy has slumped as a result. Timmons said NAM didn’t have specific data on how many manufacturers had cut jobs or were considering doing so.
“We have heard from many of our manufacturers,” he said. “They are hanging on as long as they possibly can” without layoffs.
The association head said manufacturing can recover quickly after the impact of COVID-19 lessens.
Before the coronavirus, “We had 500,000 open jobs in manufacturing,” he said. “We will have a need very quickly to ramp up hiring in our facilities.”