PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – In an effort to more rapidly respond to the coronavirus crisis, President Donald Trump’s aide Peter Navarro on Monday said Honeywell is setting up a mask-making factory in Smithfield.
Navarro, the White House trade adviser, said he got a call from officials at the international conglomerate, who said they could start producing masks within a month if they receive the required regulatory approval to establish the operation.
“On Friday night, I got them to submit their proposal and got assurance from [Health and Human Services] that they’re going to flip that within a couple of days,” Navarro said during an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “As we speak, Honeywell is getting ready to set up a mask factory in Smithfield, Rhode Island.”
Honeywell spokesperson Eric Krantz said the company is well-positioned to further help the U.S. government address the response effort. But declined to provide more specific detail at this time about what the operation might look like in Smithfield.
“We have already increased production at multiple facilities globally to address the growing demand and are rapidly moving to add capacity in the U.S. for N95 face masks,” Krantz said.
The announcement comes at a time the federal government is scrambling to respond to the fast-spreading coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a disease that’s killed more than 6,500 people across the globe.
In addition to the partnership with Honeywell, Navarro said the federal government is working with FedEx to help ship medical swabs across the country to increase the level of testing available to those feeling ill.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo later slammed the federal government for its response to the outbreak so far, saying the state’s health care system needs faster access to — among other things — protective equipment to help front line health care workers.
“I’m out of patience at this point,” Raimondo said during a press conference. “We are in OK shape right now, but this is not OK how the federal government is responding.”
Ted Nesi contributed to this story.