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Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

Sen. Sanders, Rep. Khanna introduce bill to fund increased production of healthcare supplies in COVID-19 fight

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced legislation to fund the increased production of health care equipment in the fight against COVID-19.

The Emergency Medical Supplies Procurement Act would provide $75 billion for the Trump administration to purchase or manufacture personal protective equipment — such as surgical masks, N-95 respirator masks, surgical gowns, and face visors – ventilators; testing reagents and compounds; approved vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals; and any other medical supplies or hospital infrastructure needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly three months after the first known COVID-19 death in the United States, hospitals and health care are still faced with supply shortages. The lawmakers say the Trump administration has failed to utilize the full powers of the federal government, including special authorities like the Defense Production Act (DPA), to respond to the crisis.

This bill would require the Trump administration to respond to state requests for urgent health care supplies as quickly as possible using special authorities, such as the DPA, National Emergencies Act, and Stafford Act. The legislation also incorporates oversight provisions to ensure that no member of the Trump family or administration personally benefits from this funding. Also, it mandates that a weekly report be done on the implementation of resources to states and other localities.

“The United States is the richest country in the world. There is no excuse for our medical professionals and essential workers not to have the masks, gloves, gowns, and tests they need to keep safe, treat their patients, and stop the spread of this deadly pandemic,” Sanders said. “States and cities should not be forced to bid against each other for scarce and overpriced medical equipment. Congress must explicitly authorize that the Defense Production Act is fully utilized to demand that the private sector manufacture the equipment and products that our medical personnel, patients, and frontline workers desperately need.”

Sanders and Khanna said testing is the foundation of any plan to return to in-person educational institutions, businesses, and public settings. However, testing has plateaued at 100,000 to 200,000 tests per day due to continued shortages of essential supplies and materials. Public health experts say the U.S. must increase testing to 500,000 to one million people per day before social distancing, and stay-at-home orders can be relaxed. But health providers and testing centers are reporting continued shortages of swabs, reagents, RNA extraction kits, and other personal protective and testing equipment.

“In order to safely reopen our economy, we must vastly increase our national testing capacity to one million people per day,” Khanna said. “It’s been three months, but somehow the Trump administration continues to drag its feet in ramping up the production of critical testing and protective equipment that our health care providers are begging for. As a member of the White House Coronavirus Advisory Council, I will continue to push President Trump to take leadership in providing the tools we need to tackle this crisis. Testing is the key to safely restarting our economy, and this bill provides the federal government with the resources and directives that will get us where we need to be.”