Mass Reps continue to urge national mobilization to meet dire need for medical equipment across the country
Medford, MA -- Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Representative Katherine Clark (MA-5) and Representative Joe Kennedy III (MA-4) today sent another missive to the Administration demanding an immediate invocation of the Defense Production Act authorities, which would allow the President to direct private industry to produce critically needed medical equipment, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.
Hospitals and medical centers across Massachusetts and the country are reporting a dire lack of PPE for doctors, nurses, and first responders, as well as insufficient ventilators to meet projected need of patients in critical care. The need is so critical that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have started recommending that providers use bandanas and scarves as face mask alternatives.
The letter to Vice President Pence today follows a letter Kennedy sent to the Vice President over a week ago demanding answers on the lack of medical equipment supply. Kennedy also joined House colleagues last week urging the President to invoke the Defense Production Act. President Trump did so yesterday but indicated he did not immediately plan to exercise these powers.
Clark and Kennedy wrote today: "From hospitals to health centers to first responders to newly created remote testing sites, the shortage of PPE in particular is forcing frontline workers to decide between their own health and the health of patients seeking urgent care...It is hard to imagine circumstances more dire than what we are currently facing. We cannot wait any longer to get these production lines moving."
A full text of the letter is below:
March 19, 2020
The Honorable Michael Pence
Vice President of the United States
The White House
Office of the Vice President
Dear Vice President Pence,
I am writing to follow up on my letter of March 13, 2020 in regards to the urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical equipment across the United States. From hospitals to health centers to first responders to newly created remote testing sites, the shortage of PPE in particular is forcing frontline workers to decide between their own health and the health of patients seeking urgent care.
When you briefed Congress on March 4, you indicated that domestic manufacturers would be ramping up capacity to produce PPE once the first supplemental from Congress went through. On March 6, the President signed the $8.3 billion supplemental into law, yet there appears to be no significant uptick in domestic manufacturing of PPE to date. Every single day, I am hearing directly from medical providers, hospitals, community health centers, and first responders about the urgent need for PPE.
Just yesterday, President Trump signed a declaration pursuant to the Defense Production Act. That declaration grants the President the authority to direct private industry to produce critically needed medical equipment, such as PPE and ventilators. However, the President indicated he would only exercise these powers if necessary.
It is hard to imagine circumstances more dire than what we are currently facing. We cannot wait any longer to get these production lines moving. What is the Coronavirus Task Force doing to assist manufacturers in producing critically needed medical equipment?
Additionally, I am writing to urge the Task Force to be transparent about the state and status of the national stockpile. What products do we have in the national stockpile to help alleviate the immediate need of PPE and other medical equipment like swabs for testing? How long will the stockpile last and bridge the need until domestic manufacturing ramps up? What is the status of releasing products from the stockpile to medical providers in need? During these times of uncertainty, transparency is critical to providing reliable, continuous information to the public.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent requests.
Joseph P. Kennedy, III
Member of Congress
Member of Congress