For weeks, scenes of coronavirus epidemics in New York, Washington and California have captured the attention of the nation as the epicentres of the crisis in the United States.
But as the pandemic takes hold elsewhere, the finite number of lifesaving equipment such as ventilators, face masks and personal protective equipment – as well as the inability of the national stock to fill all shortages – becomes evident. view, leaving a gap between states that have experienced early outbreaks and those that are seeing their numbers increasing now.
Michigan, the site of one of the country’s fastest growing epidemics, has been unable to secure an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, lawmakers told CNN that Governor Gretchen Whitmer had passed an order only to be informed by the company later by the federal government. the government had placed a priority order.
When even New York, the epicenter of the US coronavirus crisis, says there are not enough supplies, the states that have seen the scare spread will miss because the federal government is distributing the resources available.
“We are seeing numbers that are very similar to what these states saw 10 days ago,” said representative Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan. “It is really urgent that we don’t want to miss the opportunity to stop this in order to slow it down. ”
Michigan lawmakers also report that the state received only a fraction of the documents they requested from the national stock. Kildee said the entire State Congress delegation sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the coronavirus task force, urging the federal government to intervene.
“Confusion has arisen as the two states and the federal government try to quickly secure (personal protective equipment) and test the supplies,” wrote lawmakers. “Amidst this challenge, the federal government must ensure that it communicates a clear chain of command to the states and uses a data-driven prioritization process to meet the needs of the states.”
Detroit and Chicago are protesting the spread of the coronavirus, said Dr. Deborah Birx at the White House briefing on Thursday.
“We are concerned about certain counties” that have seen an increased spread of the virus, said Birx, citing Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit home), and Cook County, Illinois (Chicago home), for example.
She said these places were showing a “faster increase” in the spread.
Pence said on Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would play a bigger role in helping states get what they needed, saying he spoke to Democrat Whitmer about Michigan’s problems. “As I said to Governor Whitmer today, who is running his state through all of this with great energy, we want to partner with her, want to work with each governor and make sure the left hand knows what is doing the right hand in terms of resource acquisition, “said Pence.
But state officials and members of Congress say the federal government remains slow to assist states, with President Donald Trump not wishing to fully embrace the powers of the Defense Production Act to increase and distribute domestic production. There just isn’t enough supply to run right now – and even if Trump used the DPA to allow the federal government to intervene in factory production and force companies to make more fans , masks and respirators, the effort could still take weeks or months to ramp up.
Trump and Pence held a conference call with the governors on Thursday, when tension over the Defense Production Act broke out again.
Washington Democratic Governor Jay Inslee urged Trump and Pence to nationalize supply and manufacturing under the 1950 law, specifically referring to the shortage of swabs used for testing, two sources close to the appeal . Inslee encouraged Trump to be a “quarterback” and to use the authority at his disposal.
Trump said federal government won’t nationalize supply and manufacturing, source said, but another Trump administration official says new Federal Drug Administration guidelines make use easier buffers in tests.
“I think it would be very, very useful if the federal government were more assertive and aggressive and more organized in helping all of us get these systems,” Inslee said at a press conference on Thursday.
Meanwhile, states can seek to take matters into their own hands. Earlier this week in Michigan, the bipartisan delegation and Whitmer discussed the possibility of the state creating its own supply chain to make up for shortages in the federal government. Yet it is recognized that even if it could be done, it would take weeks or months.
“We are working with manufacturers to work on their supply chains. We involve our own manufacturers such as Ford, GM and Chrysler, “said representative Andy Levin, Democrat from Michigan. But he argued that it was “a distant second place for the President of the United States to use the power of the Defense Production Act.”
And it’s not just Michigan. Other states – where the epidemics may be less severe than New York but where the situation continues to worsen – are increasingly worried about sharing their hard-fought resources, knowing that it might be difficult to get more later.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb on Thursday rejected the idea of sending PPE and ventilators to New York right now even though there are only 645 cases of coronavirus in Indiana, according to the most recent CNN Health count.
“We are not able right now as much as we want to be concentrated outside our borders,” said Holcomb, a Republican. “And we realize there are hot spots in the country, Los Angeles, New York or Seattle, others are growing up … but right now we’re focusing on Hoosier’s needs so when we get to this day glad where we can start to help the rest of the other country recover, we will. ”
In Pennsylvania, where cases have reached more than 1,600, there is more evidence that the federal government has injected uncertainty.
MP Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said that a hospital in her state had paid 80,000 N95 respirators to learn that FEMA had misappropriated its order.
“Not only is the federal government not helping to streamline the supply chain and getting supplies into the supply chain, it is now disrupting it,” said Scanlon in an interview. “These are unusual moments and require extraordinary measures. People work very, very hard at the local level – we face obstacles because we don’t have interstate coordination. ”
Two Florida Democrats, Representatives Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, wrote a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, warning that Florida needs more test pads, but that the state has received its orders of “dull and dull” leaving much of the testing capacity unused. ”
In some regions, competition for equipment occurs even at the county level. Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey, where there are nearly 7,000 cases, said in his own district that he had seen mayors and county officials compete for goods. In one county he represents, officials were able to quickly establish a driving test site that operated efficiently and with adequate resources. Meanwhile, a FEMA driving service in a neighboring county has experienced a number of shortages, he said.
“It is crazy that your ability to get tested depends on how quickly your county officials acted to operate a limited supply chain,” said Malinowski.
In Massachusetts, where there are more than 1,800 cases, officials say they “keep trying to work hard in the supply chain” to increase supplies of personal protective equipment, but to date , the State received only about 17% of its National Strategic Storage requests, with another shipment to come.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, said on Thursday that the state had made a request through FEMA for federal disaster assistance. “We hope to see the federal government move forward quickly,” he said at a press conference.
Representative Joe Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said things got worse for the states when they received supplies from the federal government because they weren’t inventoried, and workers in his state had to move on. an entire day creating one so they can be sent across the state. Kennedy called the competition for supplies between states and the federal government “completely detrimental to this process.”
“You couldn’t find a more stupid way to do it,” said Kennedy.
Priscilla Alvarez of CNN and Mike Warren contributed to this report.