A mad scramble for masks, gowns and ventilators is pitting states against each other and driving up prices. Some hard-hit parts of the country are receiving fresh supplies of N95 masks, but others are still out of stock. Hospitals are requesting donations of masks and gloves from construction companies, nail salons and tattoo parlors, and considering using ventilators designed for large animals because they cannot find the kind made for people.
The market for medical supplies has descended into chaos, according to state officials and health-care leaders. They are begging the federal government to use a wartime law to bring order and ensure the United States has the gear it needs to battle the coronavirus. So far, the Trump administration has declined.
“I can’t find any more equipment. It’s not a question of money,” said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, whose state is battling the nation’s worst outbreak. “We need the federal help and we need the federal help now.”
At best, Cuomo said, his team has secured enough protective gear for health workers to last a few weeks. It’s been unable to buy most of the 30,000 ventilators it estimates it will need to keep hospitalized patients breathing at the peak of the crisis, he said.
His pleas are echoed by others, including the American Medical Association, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Joe Biden, who have called on the Trump administration to use the Defense Production Act to order companies to mass produce medical supplies. The law, enacted during the Korean War, allows the government to require companies to manufacture certain goods and to pay them for it. [Continue reading…]