Senator Market first called on Trump to take action on Sunday after hearing from Massachusetts nurses, doctors, and first responders about dire shortage of critical medical equipment like respirators and ventilators
Washington (March 18, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today commended President Donald Trump for finally invoking the Defense Production Act in order to mobilize a war-scale manufacturing effort to produce coronavirus testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) like gowns, gloves, face shields, surgical masks, N95 respirators, ventilators, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizers. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that the United States could need up to 3.5 billion respirators, but the Strategic National Stockpile holds only 12 million respirators. Berkshire Hospital in Massachusetts has reported that it requires 3,500 respirator masks a day, but the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts only recently received 70,000 of these respirator masks.
Senator Markey was preparing to introduce a resolution calling on the President to use his authority under the Defense Production Act. He first called on the President to take the step in a letter on March 15. Senator Markey spoke to Vice President Mike Pence yesterday, urging him to have the White House use this authority, raising the alarms he has heard from the nurses and doctors in Massachusetts.
“We are at war with the coronavirus,” said Senator Markey. “I am glad the President heeded my repeated calls to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to activate a war-scale manufacturing mobilization to produce the testing kits and personal protective equipment our nurses, doctors, and first responders desperately need to combat this viral enemy. We need to activate our capable and talented domestic industry and bring the full power of the federal government to bear in responding to this crisis.
“The medical community calls this personal protective equipment PPE. But PPE also stands for a Promise to Protect Everyone. And this is the promise we should make and keep for our hospital personnel, first responders, and patients.”
The Defense Production Act of 1950 authorizes the President to mobilize domestic industry for reasons including emergency preparedness under the Stafford Act. Under Title I of the DPA, the president can prioritize domestic production of supplies such as PPE to ensure adequate stockpiles, essentially ensuring that the federal government will serve as a customer for private production of key medical supplies. The President can provide economic incentives to secure this domestic production, which may include loans, direct purchases, and purchase commitments.