Mar 12 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced that he co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to help ensure manufacturers and distributors can produce respirators during a health crises, such as the current COVID-19 epidemic. 

“With the rising number of coronavirus cases in the United States, we have to look at every area of our emergency protection plan, including access to protective equipment,” said Senator Tillis. “Right now, we are seeing an increased demand of respirator masks for medical professionals who are working to diagnose and treat patients, and these masks are critical to our efforts to help contain the spread of coronavirus. I’m proud to co-sponsor this commonsense legislation to cut red-tape so we can make sure our medical professionals have access to the protective supplies they need to stay healthy and treat patients.”

Under current law, the PREP Act allows the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a declaration granting limited liability protection to manufacturers and distributors of certain countermeasures against diseases—which includes respirators—when the government calls up that equipment to be used in the event of an outbreak or epidemic. However, respirators which are overseen by NIOSH—an office within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—are not currently eligible for that protection. 

This legislation would amend the PREP Act to ensure that all NIOSH-certified respirators are eligible for the same federal liability protections as other medical products, vaccines, and drugs.

Yesterday, Senator Tillis and U.S. Representatives Richard Hudson (R-NC-08) and David Price (D-NC-04) sent a bipartisan letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging the administration to provide additional resources to increase testing capacity for coronavirus in North Carolina.

Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) originally introduced the bill.

Read the full bill here.