Leaders and Experts Demand President Trump Take Action and Highlight His Refusal to Implement the DPA Which Has Crippled Hospitals and Local Governments’ Coronavirus Response Efforts and Put American Lives At Risk

Call Audio Available Here

Washington, DCToday, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and Protect Our Care, along with national security expert Katrina Mulligan and a health worker, held a press call to demand President Trump act decisively to get our health care system the equipment it needs to save lives, and highlighted the need to federalize the manufacturing and distribution of the medical supply chain and fully implement the Defense Production Act. 

Last night, President Trump doubled down on his refusal to help get governors and hospitals the ventilators they need. By failing to exercise his authority under the Defense Production Act to accelerate the manufacture and delivery of ventilators and other medical supplies as the country grapples with nationwide shortages, he’s putting the lives of patients and medical professionals at risk. President Trump’s failure to act swiftly or listen to national security experts who warned him about how to prepare for this crisis has cost American’s their lives, and his administration admitted they could have taken action to implement the DPA weeks ago when the current dire situation of mass shortages of medical equipment could have been avoided. 

“Right now, our states and our hospitals are having to bid against each other and chase down leads and pull political strings in order to get equipment,” said Senator Chris Murphy. “The private market is breaking down right now and the president needs to start acting like a president. Tweeting and complaining doesn’t help anybody. We are seeing the consequences of not having enough equipment as the virus continues to spread. What is happening in my home state of Connecticut today is that fewer people will get tested and so fewer people will know that they are positive. They will continue to interact with others in their community and the virus will spread. We can’t beat this virus unless we get serious about fixing the supply chain.” 

“The federal government is responsible for driving a national, coordinated response so that healthcare workers have protective equipment and paid sick leave so our country is prepared to meet the surge of coronavirus cases ahead. This hasn’t happened. Instead, we have a chaotic response from the Trump administration that is immoral and outrageous and is endangering the lives of healthcare heroes on the front lines, their families and communities,” said Mary Kay Henry, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Through our union, we will continue to fight until every healthcare worker has the equipment and training he or she needs to safely combat the coronavirus, to share resources and equipment with fellow healthcare workers on the frontlines, and to stand with patients and communities and hold the Trump administration accountable for gambling with our lives.”

“It’s really scary to be on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19 and not be protected,” said Bri Bernini, an Emergency Department Tech from Minnesota. “This is a war we are fighting. We should have everything we need to fight it and win. If healthcare workers like me don’t have the equipment we need, we are all going to get sick and we won’t be able to care for patients.”

“President Trump’s lack of preparedness for this crisis continues to put lives at risk,” said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach. “Hospitals, medical professionals and patients are in desperate need of lifesaving equipment like masks and ventilators but President Trump refuses to use his power to help them. As Trump continues to spread misinformation and out-right lies about his administration’s efforts, his failure to take action becomes even more apparent as more Americans get sick and governors and medical professionals’ calls for much needed equipment continue to go unanswered.”

“President Trump’s refusal to invoke the Defense Production Act is one of the reasons he’s directly responsible for the health and economic crisis that is spiraling out of control,” said Coronavirus War Room Director Zac Petkanas. “Instead of listening to the experts, Trump spent months downplaying the severity of the crisis and making false statements that confused the public when he could have been preparing for it. The longer we deprive medical professionals of ventilators and the protective gear they need, the more we put their health and safety, and the health and safety of millions of Americans, at imminent risk.”

“American health care workers are on the front lines. If you think about this like a war, they are the ones out there taking personal risk and we aren’t giving them the equipment and protection they need,” said Katrina Mulligan, a National Security Expert and Managing Director at CAP Action. “When we didn’t have enough MRAPs for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan we surged that equipment to them. We need to do the same thing today. The demand is global, and we need American companies to prioritize selling their goods to American health workers rather than filling orders for foreign countries or selling to the highest bidder.”

BACKGROUND: 

More Than 100 National Security Professionals: “If The Ultimate Objective Is To Save American Lives, There Is No Alternative To Utilizing The Dpa Immediately And To The Fullest Extent.” “The DPA was written into law for a reason, and the equipment and supply shortages we face are just the sort of supply chain shortfalls the law was designed to address. Congress must ensure the full potential of the DPA is being leveraged in the midst of this crisis, and we applaud legislative efforts that require the administration to actually use the tools at its disposal in a serious way. President Trump has said he would utilize the DPA in a ‘worst-case scenario.’ But the scenario we face today is already well beyond any reasonable standard for utilizing the Act. All the President will accomplish with additional delay is to place us farther down that ‘worst-case’ trajectory. If the ultimate objective is to save American lives, there is no alternative to utilizing the DPA immediately and to the fullest extent.” [Open Letter, National Security Professionals, 3/25/20]

Trump Did NOT Do Enough To Get Life Saving Equipment To Hospital and Medical Professionals 

Fact #1: The Trump administration has acknowledged since late February that it could have invoked the Defense Production Act to accelerate the production of medical supplies like masks and ventilators.

  • “Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told lawmakers this week that the United States needs a stockpile of about 300 million N95 face masks – respiratory protective devices – for medical workers to combat the spread of the virus. The United States currently has only a fraction of that number available for immediate use, Azar testified. During an interagency call on Wednesday, officials from HHS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) discussed the possibility of invoking the Defense Production Act for the manufacture of “personal protective equipment” that can be worn to prevent infection, according to a DHS official. Such equipment can include masks, gloves and body suits.” [Reuters, 2/27/20]

Fact #2: Donald Trump waited until doctors already faced life-threatening shortages of medical supplies to even consider using the Defense Production Act.

  • “Last Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA). That provision requires private companies to prioritize any federal government orders for products — including masks, respirators, and other critical items needed to fight coronavirus — over other orders. But as of Monday — five days later — even top Trump administration officials admit the government has yet to make a single order. Health care workers across the country are desperate for masks, gowns, respirators, and other basic supplies they need to treat patients with Covid-19 and to keep themselves protected from the coronavirus. They’re pleading for him to use the DPA.” [Vox, 3/23/20]
  • “‘It’s like going to war with a butter knife.’ That’s the description one physician in New York City offered for how he and his colleagues are trying to suppress the coronavirus, even as they deal with dwindling stocks of health-care supplies and personal protective equipment. ‘This is a disaster. [Our health-care workers] are risking their lives,’ the physician told me. ‘We need to advocate for our frontline workers.’” [The Atlantic, 3/20/20]

Fact #3: Donald Trump falsely claimed that governors were supposed to be independently ordering medical supplies without the federal government’s coordination, leaving states to compete with each other for necessary supplies.

  • Asked about his rationale for not invoking the Defense Production Act, Trump said: “First of all, governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this work. The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk. The governors are supposed to be — as with testing, the governors are supposed — are supposed to be doing it.” [Press Conference, Washington, DC, 3/19/20]
  • “‘It’s a wild, wild West out there, and indeed [we’re] overpaying for PPE because of that competition,’ Pritzker said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ in reference to the personal protection equipment needed for healthcare workers to treat COVID-19 patients. Pritzker said Illinois received a fraction of the hospital supplies it requested from the federal government, forcing him to compete on the open market with governors in other states impacted by the virus, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), as those supplies become depleted. Pritzker said instead of a competition, this “should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government,” adding that President Trump has to push for the manufacturing of necessary equipment.” [The Hill, 3/22/20]