- Representative Ted Lieu tweeted out a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday night claiming the Los Angeles County Fire Department was low on protective supplies
- Medical workers and first responders hit harder with COVID-19 cases have had concerns over a lack of medical personal protective equipment
- On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he would be invoking the Defense Production Act to attempt to make up medical supply shortages
On Wednesday, Representative Ted Lieu claimed in a tweet that the Los Angeles County Fire Department is running low on personal protective equipment (PPE) to deal with possible COVID-19 cases.
In a tweet to Vice President Mike Pence, Lieu thanked him for his role in chairing the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Lieu went on to claim the LACoFD informed him “they will soon run out of protective equipment to handle #COVID19 patients.” He ended the tweet by asking to know Pence’s plan to solve the nationwide problem of first responders running low on necessary supplies.
Dear @VP: Thank you for chairing WH Coronavirus task force. LA County Fire Dept informed me they will soon run out of protective equipment to handle #COVID19 patients. I understand this is a nationwide problem. Can you let me know your plan to solve it & how Congress can help? pic.twitter.com/vaqJ9ONU3p— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 19, 2020
In a letter to Pence shared in the tweet, Lieu went into further detail. “PPE includes supplies such as surgical masks, N95 respirators, goggles, face shields, disposable gowns, aprons, gloves, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and other protective equipment,” Lieu wrote. The LACoFD is concerned the “usage rate of PPR will far outpace the ability to resupply.” According to Lieu’s letter, there is also a “continued limited availability of testing” and a “4-6 day delay in getting test results.”
Currently, under the instruction of the LACoFD, EMS personnel are to wear PPE for any patient showing flu-like symptoms and to place a mask on the patient to reduce the possible transmission of disease. Any patient with significant illness requires multiple first responders all in PPE, which is disposed of after finishing with the patient. While giving credit to the local Department of Health Services for distributing a stockpile of supplies, Lieu said first responders are concerned with the availability of these protective supplies.
The LACoFD is not alone in their concerns over protective equipment. Medical employees are scrambling to find protective gear around the country where COVID-19 is more prevalent. Top healthcare officials have said that America does not have enough PPE to fulfill the growing needs of the country’s health care system. Hospital staff in Renton, Washington have already been making DIY face shields in response to the shortage of masks.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said during a White House press briefing that he would be invoking the Defense Production Act in an attempt to make up for medical supply shortages. An executive order issued on Wednesday afternoon indicates Trump will use the act to obtain “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Defense Department will make available up to five million N95 masks and other PPE from the US strategic reserves. Esper said the first million masks would be available immediately. The Defense Department is also prepared to distribute 2,000 operation deployable ventilators.
Trump announced two hospital ships were preparing to deploy in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases in New York. Pentagon spokesperson Johnathan Hoffman said only one of the ships, the USNS Comfort, was slated to go to New York at this point. A US defense official told CNN it could still be weeks before the USNS Comfort arrives in New York.
On Monday, officials from the Department of Health and Human Services told medical professionals during a conference call that there was not enough PPE in the Strategic National Stockpile to refill state and local supplies. “We have been transparent that more supplies are needed — hence the request to Congress for additional funding so we could produce more and scale up production,” an HHS spokesperson told CNN. While officials have admitted needing more supplies, they have not provided details of the supplies in the stockpile.
It was due to these shortages that lawmakers began pressing Trump to enact the Defense Production Act. On Friday, several Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to the Trump administration with details of supply shortages. In the letter, Trump was urged to use the Presidential authorities granted in the Defense Production Act to “mitigate” the shortages. On Monday, Trump urged state leaders to develop relationships with private-sector vendors, as they can typically move quicker than the federal government.