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Pentagon announces Defense Production Act to boost coronavirus testing swab production

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it will spend $75.5 million in Defense Production Act Title 3 funding to ramp up production of swabs needed for coronavirus testing. By Kaitlan Collins, Ryan Browne and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) -- The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it will spend $75.5 million in Defense Production Act Title 3 funding to ramp up production of swabs needed for coronavirus testing.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a statement that Puritan Medical Products was awarded the contract and "will quickly establish a new manufacturing facility capable of doubling its current monthly output of 20 million to 40 million swabs."

Puritan is securing a location in Pittsfield, Maine, where it will build its manufacturing facility. The company is also adding 150 employees to staff the new factory, which will start production in May.

The announcement comes after President Donald Trump announced Sunday he will compel a US company to make swabs under the Defense Production Act. Peter Navarro, his trade adviser who Trump tapped to coordinate DPA use, clarified to CNN Monday that the White House plans to use the act to give Puritan Medical Supplies federal funding to boost production.

"As Ben Franklin might have said today 'For want of a swab, a test was lost.' This swift DPA action by the Trump administration will help America continue to rapidly build up its testing capacity," Navarro said in a statement following the announcement. "It underscores the many and varied uses of DPA authorities to secure our supply chain and onshore production of critical resources in our public health industrial base."

"More jobs for Maine is a nice bonus," he added.

Widespread shortages in swabs have forced states to be creative in acquiring and distributing samples for coronavirus testing and have added mounting pressure on the President to use the Defense Production Act to increase production.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration said people may eventually be able to perform their own tests at home with a newly designed, Q-tip-style swab.

The FDA said it had worked with US Cotton to design the swabs, which are shorter than the swabs used by technicians, doctors or nurses to collect samples to test people for Covid-19 infection.

"The type of testing at the front of the nose used in this study is notable because it allows self-collection by patients thereby limiting exposure of health care providers; it is more comfortable for patients and it can be performed by a swab that is more readily available and manufacturable at scale," the FDA said in a statement.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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