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Rounds, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Increase Access to Respirators

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) joined Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to introduce legislation to help make sure manufacturers and distributors can produce respirators during health crises, such as the current COVID-19 epidemic. Respirators are masks worn over the mouth and nose to prevent the inhalation of noxious substances, including viruses and diseases that can spread through the air.

“As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rises in the U.S., making sure South Dakota communities have access to reliable equipment is vitally important,” said Rounds. “These respirators will help keep South Dakotans and all Americans healthy and safe should we need them.”


Current law 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 current law to make certain that all NIOSH-certified respirators are eligible for the same federal liability protections as other medical products vaccines, and drugs.

Representatives Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), introduced corresponding legislation in the House of Representatives.

Aberdeen, South Dakota, is home to one of two facilities owned by 3M, the world’s leading manufacturer of respirators.

Click here to view the text of the bill.