The White House on Wednesday took steps to ensure the safety of health care workers as they deal with the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus.

President Trump signed a memorandum directing his cabinet to make general-use face masks available to health care workers, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a letter on an authorization to make available millions of general-use respirators to health care workers.

“President Trump is focused on the health of the American people, and so his administration has taken action to provide protection to manufacturers that will enable production of millions of additional masks for our healthcare providers,” the White House said in a statement.


The statement was released just hours before Trump is expected to address the nation on the COVID-19 public health emergency, which the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday declared a global pandemic.

Trump is expected to announce an executive order insisting on American-made medical supplies and pharmaceuticals in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Word about the planned announcement, from a person who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, comes amid tumult Wednesday in the unfolding crisis. Confirmed cases in the United States are topping 1,000; fluctuations in the financial markets are continuing and Washington is straining to respond.

The White House is also considering a host of more aggressive responses to free up additional federal dollars and to address concerns that the administration's initial response to the pandemic was insufficient.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., raised concerns about diversifying the supply chain and reducing the United States' reliance on imports, including from China, during a private lunch with Trump and GOP senators this week.


Trump appeared to agree with the senator's outlook, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private session and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rubio praised the forthcoming announcement.

He called the expected order “a very strong first step toward increasing domestic production by enforcing Buy American requirements for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, as well as fast-tracking approval” by the Food and Drug Administration of "critical products impacted by the coronavirus outbreak’s strain on the supply chain.”

Fox News’ Kelly Chernenkoff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.