Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter today to Vice President Mike Pence calling for a federal response to address persistent shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and adequately protect healthcare and frontline workers, including by invoking the Defense Production Act.
“More than four months after the first U.S. coronavirus case was confirmed in our state, it is clear that the status quo is not working,” Inslee wrote. “The inadequacy of the federal stockpile, the over-reliance on foreign suppliers, and the limited domestic production of PPE have meant that in our time of greatest need, our nation has been unable to adequately protect healthcare and other frontline workers.
The lack of a federal program has led to a 50-state scramble to secure badly needed PPE that was “unnecessary, chaotic,” Inslee wrote. “It is akin to fighting a war in which each state is responsible for procuring its own weapons and body armor. Our current situation will only become more dire as more businesses reopen and more Americans head back to work — putting additional strain on a system that is already unable to meet demand.
“States need the federal government to harness its power under the Defense Production Act and finally address the critical need for PPE, in much the same manner as it has done for ventilators and testing supplies. While the challenges we are facing are significant, they are far from insurmountable.”
Inslee’s letter calls for the federal government to:
- Use the Defense Production Act to increase domestic PPE production to meet current and future needs.
- Develop a comprehensive assessment of protection needs by industry.
- Provide more detailed and adequately protective federal guidance for workers across all sectors.
- Create a national industry consultation program to provide technical assistance to employers on safely reconfiguring businesses.
- Replenish and expand the Strategic National Stockpile.
Full text of the letter can be found here.