Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, March 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Esper: Pentagon to give respirator masks, ventilators to HHS

March 17, 2020 - 3:51 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday that the Pentagon will provide 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators to federal heath authorities to help in the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Esper told Pentagon reporters that the ventilators are designed for use by deployed troops and the military will need to train civilians on how to use them. He said some may have “single-use” limitations.

U.S. officials have talked about the shortage of ventilators to help treat patients with the virus.

Esper also said that he's asked the Navy to prepare the hospital ships for deployment. He said the Pentagon will also talk with state and local leaders to see if there is any need for field hospitals.

He said the field units could be used to take the pressure off local hospitals, perhaps by treating trauma patients.

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