Pence to Construction Companies: Send Hospitals Your N95 Face Masks

Vice President Pence, who is leading the White House's response to the coronavirus pandemic, asked construction companies to donate stocks of masks Tuesday

Vice President Mike Pence at a podium

What to Know

  • N95 face masks filter out particles in the air, and are often used by painters and drywall contractors, among other construction workers
  • The masks have been in short supply as the coronavirus pandemic has grown, concerning health care workers
  • The masks can help protect those workers as they treat coronavirus patients

The government is asking construction companies to donate their inventory of N95 face masks to local hospitals - and to stop ordering new masks - as the country works to supply hospitals with equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Those industrial masks that they use on construction sites are perfectly acceptable for health care workers to be protected from a respiratory disease," Vice President Mike Pence said at a White House briefing Tuesday. "We are asking construction companies that our president knows very well from his background -- we're asking them to donate their N-95 masks to their local hospitals and also forgo making new orders."

Regular surgical face masks are not effective in protecting against the coronavirus. A more specialized face mask known as N95 respirators are thicker than surgical masks and are fitted to a person’s face to keep out any viral particles.

N95 masks filter out small particles in the air. They were once used primarily by painters, sanders and drywall contractors. They have also been used in emergencies, though, including in wildfires.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, they've been in high demand, with some online sellers trying to mark them up to ridiculous amounts. They're currently sold out at many legitimate online retailers.

The shortages prompted the U.S. Surgeon General to ask the public to stop buying masks in late February.

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