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Apple to donate 2 million masks to US coronavirus response, Pence says

Apple is working with the Trump administration to distribute them, Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday.

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- 02:18
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Apple also has closed stores worldwide because of the new coronavirus. 

Angela Lang/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Apple has pledged to donate 2 million industrial masks to help address the needs of health care workers in areas hit hard by the new coronavirus, the Trump administration said Saturday. 

"This is another story of great American industry," Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday at a White House briefing about the federal coronavirus response. "The president and I literally heard directly from Apple that they're donating 2 million industrial masks to this effort around the country and working with our administration to distribute those."

Apple CEO Tim Cook alluded to the donation in a tweet later Saturday, saying Apple is donating "millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe." Apple didn't comment beyond Cook's tweet. 

The coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19, has spread rapidly around the world into a pandemic. Cities, states and countries have mandated quarantines, health care systems are struggling and entire industries have shut down. In hard-hit areas, health workers are grappling with shortages of personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, such as masks. The masks not only prevent the spread of infection but also protect doctors, nurses and others on the front lines treating patients from falling ill and dropping out of the workforce. 

A donation of 2 million masks would be meaningful. By comparison, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier Saturday that the state would be sending 1 million N95 masks to New York City. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said the 1 million masks would "really help the medical professionals and first responders on the front lines of this epidemic." But the size of Apple's mask donation is still dwarfed by the total need.

Pence encouraged other manufacturers and small businesses to follow Apple's example. 

"It's a great time to go to your storeroom if you have N95 masks — if you've got 100 of them, if you've got 10,000 of them," Pence said. "Load them up, drive them to your local hospital."

Apple has already taken other measures because of the pandemic. It has closed all of its stores outside China "until further notice" (stores in China had been closed, but reopened as the number of cases there began easing). It has modified one of its biggest events of the year -- the Worldwide Developers Conference that brings thousands of app makers to Cupertino, California -- by canceling the physical event and shifting to plans to an online-only version. 

Last month, Apple warned that it's likely to miss its quarterly revenue guidance due to the impact of the virus on its Chinese customers and its production facilities in the country.  

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