Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Will Trump Help State Get Medical Supplies?

Still won’t use Defense Production Act to ramp up production. Baldwin pushes for action.

By - Mar 31st, 2020 11:37 am
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee

The N95 style medical mask provides a higher level of protection than the more common tissue or cloth surgical mask. Photo by Banej [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)].

The N95 style medical mask. Photo by Banej (CC BY-SA).

Last week the non-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors surveyed officials in 213 American cities and found alarming shortages of equipment needed to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

“More than 90 percent — or 192 cities — said they did not have an adequate supply of face masks for police officers, firefighters and emergency workers. In addition, 92 percent of cities reported a shortage of test kits and 85 percent did not have a sufficient supply of ventilators available to local health facilities,” as the New York Times reported.

“Roughly two-thirds of the cities said they had not received any emergency equipment or supplies from their state, the report said. And of those that did receive state aid, nearly 85 percent said it was not enough to meet their needs.

“In total, the conference tabulated that cities need 28.5 million face masks, 24.4 million other items of personal protection equipment, 7.9 million test kits and 139,000 ventilators.”

And that may be an under-estimate of the need, because some cities did not provide an estimate. Milwaukee’s purchasing director, for instance, did not estimate total needs, but noted the city lacks sufficient equipment and needs “as much as we can get” of disposable coveralls, boot covers, arm sleeves, sanitizing wipes, safety glasses/goggles, isolation gowns, hand sanitizer, N95 masks and paper surgical masks. The city also said it lacks enough test kits and ventilators and needs “as much as we can get.” 

“As the toll of the virus grows, mayors, county executives and governors are sounding the alarm over a dearth of equipment and struggling to deal with the deadly onslaught,” the Times reported. 

Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has introduced a bill that would require President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) “in order to quickly produce and ensure access to supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment… for health care workers on the frontlines of this pandemic,” as Urban Milwaukee reported last week. 

“Wisconsin hospitals and health care providers are currently facing a dire shortage of supplies and medical equipment,” Baldwin noted. Milwaukee County is so desperate officials have asked all citizens to donate any items they might have — masks, safety glasses, protective gowns or suits and disposable medical gloves — even if its past their expiration date, as Urban Milwaukee has reported.

Gov. Tony Evers has also noted the shortage of equipment in a press release asking for donations. “I am calling on companies, schools, and other organizations that may have unused protective equipment sitting in their facilities to make those materials available to those who need it most,” Evers said.

“Wisconsin, like many other states, has a shortage of personal protective equipment due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, in the release, which offered a long list of needed equipment.

Late last week a companion bill to Baldwin’s bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, to force Trump to act, but the president, who said he had blowback to the idea from companies worried about an impact on their profits, has continued to resist using the DPA to speed up production. While Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have both suggested it could be used, both have said it hasn’t been needed.

Not one Republican signed on to Baldwin’s bill. That includes Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who did not respond to Urban Milwaukee’s request for comment.

Meanwhile, Trump has denied there is any shortage of equipment or tests. 

Yesterday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, told NPR’s Morning Edition that Trump was incorrect in saying coronavirus testing problems had been resolved, as USA Today reported.

“Yeah, that’s just not true. I mean I know that they’ve taken some steps to create new tests, but they’re not actually produced and distributed out to the states,” Hogan said. “No state has enough testing.”

On Monday Trump had said America’s coronavirus testing was better “than any country in the world… We have done more tests, by far, than any country in the world, by far.” In fact, while more than a million Americans have been tested, on a per capita basis the country lags behind other developed countries, USA Today noted. 

While Wisconsin will get some $2 billion in stimulus funding it can use to buy needed equipment, every other state will have funding, too, which leaves all 50 states competing for tests, ventilators and a long list of needed personal protection equipment, which could bid up the price of these supplies.

What is needed, and has been needed for at least a month, is a national approach to the problem, marshaling the full power of American manufacturers, as was done during World War II, to produce all the equipment needed to save American lives. 

“Wisconsin faces a dire shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers on the frontlines of this pandemic because of the failures of the Trump Administration,” Baldwin told Urban Milwaukee. “President Trump needs to unlock the full authority the Defense Production Act now.”

Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee has self-quarantined after having been exposed to someone with the virus and has lost count of the number of contacts she’s had with people who were later diagnosed with COVID-19, she told Urban Milwaukee. The pandemic has hit this city’s predominantly African American neighborhoods the hardest, and she called on Trump to act.  

“Trump invoking the Defense Production Act is long overdue,” she noted in a recent email to Urban Milwaukee. “We need a coordinated federal response because the shortages of personal protective equipment, masks and other equipment leave the workers on the front lines of this crisis and others vulnerable. Trump needs to put aside his ego and provide leadership during this crisis.”

Every day the president waits could mean more lives lost. 

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

One thought on “Murphy’s Law: Will Trump Help State Get Medical Supplies?”

  1. Thomas Williams says:

    According to the NY Times, the Defense Production Act has been used thousands of times by the Department of Defense during the Trump Administration to assure the production of weapons, etc. But when needed equipment to save lives runs short, profit is more important than lives. Immorality comes in many guises!!

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us