Calls on President to use government authority to mobilize domestic medical manufacturing industry during national emergency


Boston (March 15, 2020) – With the country confronting a shortage of both coronavirus test kits and critical medical equipment, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) is today calling on the Trump administration to immediately use existing authorities under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to facilitate and support increased private production of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies and devices such as ventilators, and diagnostic testing supplies. In an effort to dramatically scale up testing and ensure the continued ability to test for the coronavirus, there needs to be immediate increased production of swabs, viral transport media, and other testing materials. For example, in Massachusetts, the state had only tested 475 people for coronavirus as of Saturday. And the nation’s hospitals face a serious shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and infected patients, including gowns, gloves, face shields, surgical masks, N95 respirators, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the United States could need up to 3.5 billion respirators, but the Strategic National Stockpile holds only 12 million respirators


“We are at war with the coronavirus,” said Senator Markey. “We need a massive wartime manufacturing mobilization for coronavirus testing kits and personal protective equipment for medical personnel. 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 viral enemy.”


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.


A copy of Senator Markey’s letter to the Trump administration can be found HERE.


Additionally, Senator Markey today called on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to immediately provide additional flexibility to research grantees to repurpose equipment and resources toward coronavirus diagnostic testing. With such flexibility, researchers can come together to funnel equipment to hospitals, share expertise, and set up testing in labs that have the proper safety procedures.


“The NIH funds 300,000 researchers,” writes Senator Markey in his letter to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. “We need an immediate and large-scale response in this country, and our talented biomedical community can contribute to this response. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment, and every moment counts.”


A copy of Senator Markey’s letter to NIH can be found HERE.