Blumenthal, Yale experts call for national response to PPE shortage in coronavirus pandemic
It was all about the PPE.
More 1,000 people tuned into a broadcast that gave medical experts, legislators and other officials the chance to discuss the PPE problem, according to Crowdcast, the platform that organizers used for the event. Many messages in the chat indicated users were from New Haven.
Speakers included prominent Connecticut voices such as U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who criticized the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The federal government has completely abdicated their responsibility,” Blumenthal said, contesting that the federal government has sometimes proved an obstacle in the coronavirus response, with reports of PPE shipment seizures.
About 90 percent of the nation’s PPE is manufactured abroad, according to the senator, who said the circumstance needs to change.
Abbe Gluck, a professor at Yale Law School, was similarly critical of the federal government, which she argued has not used the Defense Production Act effectively.
The DPA “lets him [the president] get around the normal function of the market” in order to provide vital equipment during national crises, according to Gluck, another panelist at the NeedMasksToday event.
Although the DPA has most commonly been used for military purposes, FEMA has also used it during natural disasters to acquire needed supplies, Gluck said.
President Donald Trump did not invoke the DPA early enough and has “waffled” in his use of it, Gluck argued, adding that the federal government’s response has raised questions about whether PPE is being distributed equitably.
Trump has invoked the DPA several times in relation to the coronavirus.
In early April he used it to ban the export of PPE, a move the White House said was meant to prevent profiteering and ensure the equipment stayed in the U.S. to fight the virus, according to a report from the Hill.
Last week, Trump harnessed the DPA to deem employees at meat processing plants essential, MSNBC reported.
But lawmakers from across the country have called on the president to use the DPA more aggressively and order factories to manufacture PPE.
Dr. Lisa Lattanza, the chairwoman of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Yale University School of Medicine, described an unsettling scramble for PPE.
“We can no longer reliably get mass, isolation gowns, surgical PPE through our normal supply chain,” she said, adding that Yale New Haven Hospital has had to use other means to procure supplies, such as coordinating with local manufacturers.
The equipment shortage has also raised costs, according to Lattanza, who said masks worth 75 cents were being sold for $5 or $6.
“And we have to pay it because otherwise we don’t have the masks,” she said.
Lattanza also shared her belief that physicians and other medical experts should be in charge of the pandemic response, not politicians.
Extensive time, money and effort should go into figuring out a way to mass produce N95 respirators domestically, she told attendees of the virtual event.
“If you have the N95s, you don’t need the ventilators,” she said.
NeedMasksToday is encouraging folks to ask their governors or senators to call on the White House to use the DPA to produce PPE.