Apple is donating several million industrial-grade respirator masks to health care organizations, amid a critical shortage of supplies and equipment needed to respond those affected by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Tim Cook, the CEO of the tech giant, confirmed Apple’s efforts to help the cause Saturday, saying the supplies would go to providers in the U.S. and Europe.
“Our teams at Apple have been working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19,” Cook wrote in a post on Twitter. “We’re donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe. To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you.”
At a press conference earlier Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence said that Apple was donating 2 million masks to U.S. organizations. “The president and I literally heard directly from Apple that they’re donating 2 million industrial masks to this effort around the country and working with our administration to distribute those,” Pence told reporters.
It’s not clear how Apple has been able to secure such a large batch of N95 respirator masks, which are the personal protective equipment “most often used to control exposures to infections transmitted via the airborne route,” according to the CDC. Apple did not respond to a request for more info.
Hollywood productions are pitching in to the effort as well, with shows including “Pose,” “Station 19” and “The Resident” donating masks to local health care workers.
N95 masks are in high demand right now — and short supply. Unlike surgical masks, which are not considered respiratory protection, N95 masks have a particulate-filtering facepiece that filters at least 95% of airborne particles.
Pence, in his comments at the White House press conference Saturday, reiterated that companies large and small in the private sector can help. “It’s a great time to go to your storeroom, and if you have N95 masks — if you’ve got 100 of them, if you’ve go 10,000 of them — is to load ’em up [and] drive ’em over to your local hospital,” he said.
Also Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state was sending 1 million N95 masks to New York City, with 500,000 bound for Long Island. A day earlier, Cuomo ordered “non-essential” businesses in New York to have their employees stay home.
Critics have accused the Trump administration of being entirely unprepared to respond to a pandemic of this kind, and the president himself until a few days ago routinely tried to downplay the serious threat posed by COVID-19.
On Thursday, Trump argued it was individual states — not the federal government — that bear the responsibility of procuring and distributing emergency medical supplies. “The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk,” he said. On Friday, Trump shifted tone, acknowledging that states are “having a hard time” getting masks and claimed the administration had used the Defense Production Act to order “millions of masks, which are coming and which will be distributed to the states.” According to Pence, manufacturers including 3M and Honeywell have boosted production of N95 masks for health care workers by the tens of millions.