3M Innovation Center
March 5, 2020
GOVERNOR WALZ: Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for coming. A special thank you to 3M, a proud Minnesota company — one that’s at the forefront of so many innovations, and especially now. And you’re going to hear a little bit from Dr. Birx about some of those innovations and the role that 3M will play in making sure that Minnesotans and Americans are safe.
I’d like to say a special thank you to the Vice President, a colleague in Congress that I had the pleasure to work with for many years. And I mentioned, the other day, the National Governors Association was on a call, and it’s very reassuring to governors to hear another governor — a former governor — talk about what the state’s response is and that collaboration between local, state, federal, and our private sector partners.
And it’s assuring to me to be in this room to see all the coordination that’s going on and the preparations that are being made to protect Minnesotans and Americans.
So we’re just grateful for this visit, Mr. Vice President, and certainly grateful to 3M. Mike.
MR. ROMAN: Well, thank you, Governor. And I just would like to say thank you to Vice President Pence and your delegation for joining us today. And, Governor Walz and your team, I really appreciate the chance to come in and talk about how we can work together on pandemic preparedness. It’s something our team takes very seriously. It’s a very important role for us. We appreciate the time to talk about how our people, products, and technology can help make a difference.
So thank you very much for being here.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mike. And, Governor, thank you for those gracious words. More importantly, thank you to you and Health Commissioner Malcolm for the outstanding work that you’re doing for the people of Minnesota here.
As the President said, we’re all in this together. And he wanted me to be here in Minnesota to build on the strong partnership that we have, with your administration, here to protect the people of Minnesota as our nation deals with the coronavirus. But I’m also here, as Governor Walz said, because not only is this a whole-of-government approach, it’s a whole-of-America approach.
And 3M is a great company and based here in Minnesota, but has impacts in our healthcare community — in particular, all over America. And I’m truly grateful, Mike, for the report that we had today, that decisions were made here at 3M, literally at the outset of the coronavirus. 3M made the decision, literally, to go to full capacity here in the United States in the production of the respiratory masks, the N95 masks that you create with such professionalism.
I want to commend you, Mike, for that decision. And just as much, I want to commend the outstanding workforce at your facilities across the country and here in Minnesota that have made that — made that a reality. It’s made a real difference.
President Trump made it clear that we have no higher priority than the health and safety of the American people. And our priority is to ensure that Americans who have contracted the coronavirus receive the treatment and therapeutic support that every American would want a family member to receive.
But what brings me here today is we also want to make sure that our healthcare workers have the personal protective equipment to be able to minister to people as we continue to deal with the coronavirus in communities around the country.
The good news is that, thanks to the unprecedented efforts that President Trump took in January, we believe that the risk to the average American of contracting the coronavirus remains low. In January, the President declared a public health emergency. We suspended all travel out of China into the United States. We quarantined returning Americans from China and from the Diamond Princess cruise line where there had been infections.
It’s heartbreaking that, at the present moment, that we have lost 11 Americans. Our condolences go to their families. But the good news is the vast majority of those who have contracted the coronavirus in our country are receiving treatment and doing well and on the road to recovery.
But going forward, the President and I have been working with our entire team and with members of Congress in both political parties to ensure that not only do our federal agencies have the resources to confront the coronavirus in this country, but also that state governments and local health officials have the resources moving forward.
And I’m encouraged that the Congress voted yesterday, the Senate will vote today, on legislation that will provide nearly $8 billion in support, including more than $3 billion to procure medical supplies like masks, and to make sure that those that are dealing with the coronavirus, as well as those that are providing them healthcare, have the protective equipment that they have.
It’s really what brings us here today. We just finished a very productive and substantive discussion with the leadership team here in the state, and also here at 3M, about your production capacity with regard to respirators — as they are known, the “respiratory mask.” But we’re going to continue to work very closely with you to ensure that now that you’re at full production level here at 3M, that we work with other companies around the country that also create these very same products.
But I do have a word to the average American about how you can help as well: Unless you are ill, you have no need to buy a mask. And one of the ways that healthy Americans can support our efforts to be there for patients and to be there for healthcare providers is to not purchase masks on the commercial market.
I’m going to ask Dr. Deborah Birx to speak to this issue. She’s my right arm at the White House. She’s one of the leading experts in the world on infectious diseases. But I thought — I thought, Deb, if you want to reflect a little bit on the products that are created here at 3M and how important they are to our healthcare providers, and how Americans — healthy Americans — can help by not going out and purchasing a mask so that more are available on the marketplace for our patients and our healthcare community, I’d be grateful.
DR. BIRX: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. And I really want to thank 3M who just taught me all about the differential masks in front of us.
So they made it very clear that this mask that you get in most of the drugstores, which we often refer to as “mask,” are only helpful if you’re the one that’s infected. So it will protect others from your germs. So, wearing this as a healthy person will not protect you. But a sick person wearing this mask will help protect others from getting infected.
And then we went through the two different kinds of these respiratory protection masks, which are really the healthcare provider masks, and really understanding the difference between the green one and the white one. And I want to really appreciate that to really understand that this is mostly a surgical mask for use in surgical, but these can be adapted to be used in the healthcare facilities.
And we’re really having a discussion about what that would take to really protect others. And the electrostatic material that’s in here, that really is the function that keeps all of the nanoparticles and traps them.
So it really was a very educational experience, and I really want to thank you because, before coming in here, I really didn’t understand clearly the difference. And so really understanding why healthcare providers need these masks and that the average American purchasing these masks will do nothing for them. But if you are sick, you should wear one.
So thank you. This was incredibly helpful for me.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Dr. Birx. And Dr. Stephen Hahn is the head of the FDA and, I know, has been working with manufacturers, like 3M, around the country to make sure that we have the medical protective equipment.
And, Dr. Hahn, your thoughts.
DR. HAHN: I think it was very instructive. We’re working with 3M to try to determine which healthcare workers can use which of these masks according to the CDC guidance. And as you know, we issued some guidance earlier this week on some flexibility around these masks. So it’s an ongoing project.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Dr. Hahn. Let me just say again how grateful we are to you, Mike, and all of the great workforce here at 3M. You’re playing a vital role in the life of our nation every day, but especially in times like this.
And so we are grateful that when word first reached our shores about the coronavirus, 3M already went to full capacity in this country. And we’re going to look for ways of working with the Congress, working with healthcare providers, and state leaders like Governor Walz, to make sure and fully utilize those resources and make sure that the broadest range of what you’re producing here can be available as we deal with the coronavirus.
But let me close again by saying to the people of Minnesota: The reality is that despite the fact that we now have cases in the United States of America — more than 100, including those that returned to our country — the risk to the average healthy American of contracting the coronavirus remains low. We believe that that is a result of strong actions that President Trump has taken, strong support by governors across the country, putting the health and wellbeing of our people first. And we’re going to continue to work to keep it that way. We’re expanding tests. There will be more cases.
Our focus today is on what we believe, increasingly, is the more vulnerable population. It appears from some of the worldwide data that we have collected that seniors, and particularly seniors who have other health challenges, represent the most vulnerable population. And so, yesterday, President Trump announced that we’re raising the guidelines for infectious diseases at our nursing homes here in Minnesota and all across the country. And we’re increasing inspections of our nursing homes so that we’ll be focusing on our vulnerable population in an increasing way.
But to every American, I think seeing the leadership at the federal level and the strong bipartisan support for legislation that’s moved forward to make billions of dollars available to confront the coronavirus; seeing the strong collaboration in states across the country, including here in Minnesota, and the strong participation of our business community — I just want to ensure the people of this great state that, at the President’s direction, we’re going to continue to lean into this.
You should know we’re ready, and we’re going to continue to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear to confront the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.
So, thank you all.