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War for life: how US states fight each other for protection against coronavirus

How the search for life-saving medicines needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic pushes the state with the state, says USA Today.

Photo: Shutterstock

Governors throughout the United States are desperate to fight for masks and other protective equipment that doctors and nurses are in dire need of to resist the coronavirus infection, which has already killed more than 1500 and infected more than 105 US residents (according to data at noon ET March 000), and end this not yet visible.

The precious stocks that they are so desperately looking for are sold out before the states can get them, or they cost exorbitant amounts when they can be found.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshir recently said that he had a line up on some protective equipment, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency “came and bought it all from us.”

“I’m willing to pay what I need to protect the Kentucky people as much as possible,” he said.

The problem is that everyone else is ready to do the same.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker called the fight for personal protective equipment, or PPE, the “Wild West,” forcing his staff to overpay for equipment he could provide.

And the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, told reporters that "we are ruining other states," because they are all fighting for new equipment and protective equipment.

“I conclude a contract with the company for 1000 masks, - He speaks Cuomo - but aboutthey call back 20 minutes later and say, "The price went up" because they had a better deal. "

At a White House press conference, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration is investigating reports that some states are unable to purchase equipment from the private market as the federal government buys supplies.

“We want to work with every governor and make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing in terms of getting resources,” Pence said.

According to him, the administration wants to make sure that FEMA will be able to purchase as much equipment as possible, "since we work with the supply chain and want to have full coordination with the states."

The demand for personal protective equipment has risen sharply since the announcement of the coronavirus pandemic. Production and shipments from China, the world's largest producer, were interrupted while that country struggled to contain COVID-19.

“This is kind of the worst combination of events, said Tom Derry, general manager of the Arizona Institute for Supply Management, a nonprofit professional organization. It will be a race against time to see if we can protect our health workers. We all just climb and try to respond. ”

Health care providers need personal protective equipment known as PPE, such as medical masks, gloves, gowns and face masks, to protect themselves from the virus when treating an increasing flow of patients.

First-class face protection, in particular the N-95 respirator, occupies an important place in the state and hospital priority lists. Like mechanical ventilators (mechanical ventilation), which many patients with COVID-19 need, because they have breathing problems.

On the subject: Garbage bags instead of workwear: how the medical staff in New York survive during the COVID-19 epidemic

But due to the fact that China and Italy were primarily affected by the coronavirus, the states are now ordering these funds, at the end of the list of requests that other countries have already made regarding the same products.

When states turn to American manufacturers for help, practical restrictions make it difficult to re-equip a variety of products.

“In two or three months we will return to normal, but the crisis now", stated Derry.

The end result is a highly competitive PPE market in which states, the federal government and foreign countries are in fierce competition for resources.

This is not just Illinois vs. New York or Kentucky vs. FEMA.

These are Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana against the whole world.

People’s lives depend on how much equipment, protective equipment and other medications these states can purchase, as COVID-19 continues to spread.

Trade War for Remedies

How exactly the states are trying to find and buy PPE is not entirely clear. Midwestern state governors openly declare their struggle to provide greater security for residents.

Pritzker said the Illinois state government is working with state manufacturers in addition to fighting the market to buy funds. His office recently announced that the state has material procurement contracts, including 2,5 million N-95 respirators, 1 million surgical masks and 11 gloves.

“My administration continues to work day and night to comb the entire globe,” said Pritzker.

Among other things, he welcomes donations of personal protective equipment from tattoo salons and other places.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb emphasized that companies across the state are stepping up during the pandemic. His office says car and auto parts manufacturers are switching lines to help make plastic shields, masks, and other products.

When asked about interstate competition, Holcomb spokeswoman Rachel Hoffmeyer said, “Indiana is exploring several production options for our own PPE to reduce market dependence.”

President Donald Trump said that he will use his powers under the Defense Production Law to require General Motors to accept federal contracts for mechanical ventilation, and GM said they plan to start work on launching one of its factories for this purpose.

Beshir said the Kentucky government is looking for supplies everywhere and is buying its best like never before.

“We must invest dollars in escrow so that you have a product, he stressed at a press conference. Then we must make sure that it meets the specifications as they become available. When we make an order, they call back and say that it is no longer available. "

Many businesses are trying to help. For example, they are re-equipping their medical equipment manufacturing operations.

On the subject: The White House called the new hot spots of the spread of coronavirus in the United States

The stock of the federal government under a flurry of criticism

Some states say they have not received what is needed from the federal government’s Strategic National Stock, which is designed to provide emergency medicine like this.

Officials from Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, Rhode Island and other states said they received only part of the funds that they requested from stocks. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer warned that the equipment her staff received from stocks and her own efforts would not be enough for the current crisis.

“If the federal government really began to concentrate, when it became clear that the whole world would face this, we would now be in a stronger position, convinced Whitmer. Lives will be lost because we were not ready. ”

Indiana Health Commissioner Christina Boxing said that Indiana has recently received a second share of supplies from the national stock and plans to distribute it to the hospitals with the greatest needs.

In Ohio, Health Director Amy Acton said the state received equipment from national stocks, but "these are cargo boxes, not trucks."

The FEMA administrator said that the federal government is ready to “go to zero” with stocks to meet supply demand.

"Gray market" for medical equipment

“Due to the high demand, agencies in search of equipment can move to the so-called gray market,” said Mike Alkir, president of Premier, a procurement company that hospitals and medical clinics rely on to meet supply needs.

Gray markets include products sold outside manufacturer approved channels. But such purchases are fraught with fraud.

Alkira works with its customers (not state governments) to provide what they need during a pandemic, but it is also exploring all possibilities in the hope of finding more equipment until the supply chain starts working.

“You get hundreds of calls per day, maybe 200 calls and emails from people who have masks and stuff, he said. And 99% of them are false ... It's like the movie Groundhog Day. And so every day. "

According to Mike Schiller, senior director of the supply chain at the Health Resources and Materials Management Association, the supply chain will not run dry. He called the proof the fact that production in China is recovering, American manufacturers are beginning to re-equip their production facilities for medical equipment.

But it will be difficult and long.

Regarding the price spike, Schiller is convinced that hospitals, states, and the federal government are attracting suppliers who have PPE but usually do not sell them to hospitals.

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