All 47 members of the U.S. Senate’s Democratic caucus are requesting that the White House outline its plan for getting protective equipment to emergency responders and for mobilizing tests and treatment devices for victims of COVID-19 coronavirus.
“Our constituents working as health care providers and front line responders in hospitals, public health departments, and throughout their communities report the health care system is woefully under-resourced, especially in our rural, underserved areas and minority communities that are often overlooked,” wrote the senators. They quoted President Donald Trump’s March 16 comments about supplies with state governors, suggesting that the governors “try getting it yourselves.”
The senators, including U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, found that statement unsatisfactory and urged the president to direct private industry toward manufacturing needed supplies. Trump has not yet used the Defense Production Act of 1950 to provide incentives or enter into contracts with manufacturers. He has characterized it as “nationalizing” businesses. Although the Defense Product Act would give the federal government expanded powers over production, it does not transfer private ownership to the state.
The letter asked the Trump Administration to describe when it plans to release personal protective equipment and other medical supplies from the national stockpile to first responders. Senators would also like to know what the daily nationwide testing capacity is, whether Trump intends to invoke the Defense Production Act, and what is the gap between supply and demand for equipment.
As of March 19, the United States had performed nearly 104,000 tests. South Korea, by contrast, had performed over 316,000 out of a population of 51.5 million people. CNN reports that there are not enough tests in the U.S. for everyone who is displaying COVID-19 symptoms to receive one. Last week, Coloradans representing a variety of occupations from janitors and flight attendants to first responders worried about a lack of protective equipment as they carry out their jobs during the pandemic.