Ground zero for that scarcity in resources like masks, gowns, and ventilators is New York, where infection rates have soared due in large part to the sheer population density of New York City with some 8.5 million people living in close proximity to each other. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been urgently pleading with Trump to activate the Defense Production Act, which would allow the federal government to order private industries to start mass producing the resources in question.
“I can’t find any more equipment. It’s not a question of money,” Gov. Cuomo, said Tuesday during his daily press conference. “We need the federal help and we need the federal help now.”
The Washington Post reports the New York has managed to secure enough protective equipment to last for the next few weeks, but it has not been able to get the 30,000 ventilators local officials believe will be needed over the coming weeks. So far, Trump has been touting the fact that FEMA has sent 400 ventilators to New York. But Cuomo stressed Tuesday that it wasn't nearly enough to meet the need. “The president said it's a war ... then act like it,” Cuomo said Tuesday. And if the federal government fails to step it up, he offered, “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die.”
But at the same time that Cuomo is pleading for federal action, regions like Seattle, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area are also scrambling to meet the need they see coming around the corner. The mad dash is pitting region against region and, in some cases, hospital against hospital.
“We have Third World countries who are better equipped than we are now in Seattle,” said Rhonda Medows, president of population health management at Providence St. Joseph Health. “For weeks we have been asking the federal government to compel manufacturers to produce more [personal protective equipment] because we knew from our own modeling that there would be a serious shortfall.”
In the meantime, local hospitals are also accepting donations of unused N95 masks from private citizens in an attempt to crowdsource their way out of shortfalls, at least in the short term. “Scores of citizen-led donation groups are popping up across the country, including GetusPPE.org, DonatePPE.org, Mask Match and one to move gear from labs to hospitals called PPE Link. Then there's also a group of volunteers called Mask Crusaders who've set up ad hoc chapters in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and elsewhere. The hashtag #GetMePPE continues to trend across social media,” reports NPR.
Some private sector manufacturers are also stepping forward to produce the critically needed supplies on a voluntary basis. The Post writes that "General Motors announced a partnership with Ventec Life Systems, a Seattle-based company that makes ventilators, to help it step up production." And the Trump administration has enlisted the help of T-shirt manufacturers like HanesBrands to produce protective masks.
But bottom line, even the federal response has amounted to a hodgepodge of catch-as-catch-can efforts across the country. For the most part, state governments and regional hospitals are fending for themselves with only sporadic help from federal officials. It's a recipe for disaster, and it will surely result in an untold number of lives lost due to Trump's unyielding unfitness for the job and lack of leadership skills so sorely needed at this time.
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