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Covid-19 Update: Minnesota Companies Jump into the Race for Face Masks

President Trump orders 3M to ramp up production of face masks. Target promises to pitch in.

Covid-19 Update: Minnesota Companies Jump into the Race for Face Masks
Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock.com

Two Minnesota manufacturers are finding themselves on the frontlines of the United States’ response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, president Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to secure face masks from 3M and ventilators from Medtronic. The law, which was crafted at the start of the Korean War in 1950, allows the president to use “any and all authority” to acquire necessary materials. 

The Trump administration has also asked 3M to increase the amount of medical products it imports from other countries. 3M early Friday said it has been working with Trump’s team to “do exactly that.”

“Earlier this week, we secured approval from China to export to the U.S. 10 million N95 respirators manufactured by 3M in China,” the company said in a statement. 

But 3M leaders seemed wary about Trump’s request to stop selling face masks to Canada and Latin America, two areas where the company is a “critical supplier of respirators.” 3M cited the “significant humanitarian implications” posed by the request. The company also says the move could have some unintended consequences.

“Ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done,” the company said. “If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease.”

The Trump administration also has pledged to use “any and all authority” to help the Medtronic and five other companies obtain the necessary materials to ramp up production of ventilators. A Medtronic spokesperson told Politico that the company is still reviewing the order.

Target Corp, meanwhile, says it will continue chipping in to the effort to secure more face masks. On Friday, the retailer said it would donate 2 million KN95 face masks to medical providers. That’s on top of Target’s earlier donations to more than 50 medical organizations across the country.

Target also is stepping up its efforts to protect its in-store workers. On Thursday, the retailer said it would begin providing non-surgical masks and gloves for its 350,000 in-store workers with . The company also said it would begin limiting the number of customers in stores as needed.

“Occupancy limits will vary by location and be determined by the store’s specific square footage to enhance the average space per person and reduce the possibility of congestion,” the company said in a statement. “If metering is required, a Target team member will provide a designated waiting area outside with social distancing markers.”

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