U.S. President Donald Trump has asked the “great American industry” to help the country deal with the coronavirus. Tech companies are among those that are responding, both by wrangling donations and by shifting manufacturing to produce medical gear.
In some ways, it feels like a war mobilization that is just beginning. The Defense Production Act of 1950, created during the Korean War, enables the federal government to require companies to produce gear, and Trump will use it to secure medical equipment such as test kits.
Apple announced that it would donate millions of masks to the cause, as well as a $15 million donation. Trump had previously said that 3M was going to ratchet up manufacturing of masks to 35 million a month.
Last week, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan announced that his company had set up a production line to manufacture masks to provide relief from the coronavirus. The goal is to deliver a million masks at no cost. Tan did so even though he said there had been “incredible demand” for Razer’s products for enthusiast gamers, who are playing even more in a work-from-home world.
On Facebook, Tan wrote, “So I haven’t had much sleep over the past couple of days to get this initiative up and running, but I’m happy to be able to announce this on behalf of the team here at Razer.” He added, “While there has been incredible demand for our products during this time with many staying home to avoid the crowds (and to play games), the team at Razer understands that all of us have a part to play in fighting the virus — no matter which industry we come from.” Tan said other projects are under way as well.
The country is also gearing up to the more complicated task of making coronavirus test kits and ventilators used to treat those with acute lung problems.
HP said that it has already sent more than 1,000 3D-printed parts to local hospitals. HP’s 3D R&D centers in Barcelona, Spain; Corvallis, Oregon; San Diego, California; and Vancouver, Washington are collaborating with partners to increase production to meet the most urgent needs. The company is also coordinating with government, health, and industry agencies in numerous countries to ensure a synchronized and effective approach.
Some of the first applications HP is validating and producing include:
- Hands-Free Door Opener: Door handles are among the most germ-infested objects in houses, hospitals, factories, and retirement homes. This adapter allows for easy and more sanitary opening with an elbow.
- Mask Adjuster: Many hospital staff are required to wear masks for long periods of time. The mask adjuster clasp is designed to improve comfort and alleviate associated ear pain.
- Face Shields: Face shields are one of the highest-need personal protection items. Brackets to hold the shield and comfortably fit the wearer are a critical component.
HP also said many more applications are in the testing and validation phase and are expected to begin production soon, including:
- Field Ventilator: 3D printed parts for a mechanical bag valve mask (BVM) designed for use as a short-term emergency ventilation system for COVID-19 patients. A simplified design enables a robust and less-complex device, facilitating its rapid production and assembly.
- FFP3 Face Masks: Effective protective gear is needed for medical providers to treat the volume of expected COVID-19 patients. HP is validating several hospital-grade face masks and expects them to be available shortly.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he had acquired 1,255 ventilators from China and was shipping them to the U.S. for distribution to hospitals. Tesla is also talking about shifting factory lines to make ventilators, as is GM.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that his company had prioritized medical shipments from the company’s warehouses over other kinds of essential products for households. The resources are addressing front-line health care workers first. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on Saturday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used its health chatbot as the underlying framework in a chat assessment tool for COVID-19, and both Microsoft Teams and Minecraft are being used for teleeducation efforts.
China’s Alibaba has also donated 1.1 million test kits, 6 million masks, and 60,000 protective suits and face shields — first to Ethiopia and other African nations. Facebook said it is donating $20 million to support relief efforts, and Bill Gates is donating $50 million to speed the development of a coronavirus treatment.
IBM said it was using its supercomputing power to help scientists doing research on COVID-19, the formal name of the global pandemic disease. Google CEO Sundar Pichai posted about how the company is helping spread critical information about the coronavirus and protecting people from misinformation. Google has also rolled out free enterprise features for G Suite for education so schools can use it for public livestreaming.
Twitter also said it is donating $1 million to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation to support vulnerable journalists during this time.
Meanwhile, Sydney, Australia-based nonprofit RapidWard said it is producing and shipping hundreds of thousands of kits (dubbed IgG/IgM test) that are designed to detect the coronavirus. It has been shipping the kits to Switzerland, Italy, Iran, the United Kingdom, and now the U.S. The shipments are going directly to governments and medical staff.
Nontech companies such as Ford, GM, Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, distilleries, and others are also helping with coronavirus efforts.
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