The U.S. Was On Track To Build Cheap, Easy-To-Use Ventilators Years Ago. Then A Big Device-Maker Got In The Way.
Public health experts have long known that a ventilator shortage is a vulnerability in the system. The government tried to rectify the problem, but efforts stalled. The New York Times takes a deep-dive into what went wrong. Meanwhile, manufacturers across the country say they lack federal guidance on where to ship new products. In other news, President Donald Trump blames hospitals for hoarding or mishandling ventilators and masks, though cited no evidence to back up the statement.
The New York Times:
The U.S. Tried To Build A New Fleet Of Ventilators. The Mission Failed.
Thirteen years ago, a group of U.S. public health officials came up with a plan to address what they regarded as one of the medical system’s crucial vulnerabilities: a shortage of ventilators. The breathing-assistance machines tended to be bulky, expensive and limited in number. The plan was to build a large fleet of inexpensive portable devices to deploy in a flu pandemic or another crisis. Money was budgeted. A federal contract was signed. Work got underway. (Kulish, Kliff and Silver-Greenberg, 3/29)
The Wall Street Journal:
Manufacturers Seek U.S. Help In Deciding Where To Ship Scarce Medical Goods
Producers and distributors of medical supplies across the country are raising red flags about what they say is a lack of guidance from the federal government about where to send their products, as hospitals compete for desperately needed masks and ventilators to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. The issue is taking on greater urgency as supplies run short in hard-hit regions. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, for example, said the city could run out of supplies after a week, saying in a CNN interview the city would “need a re-enforcement” after that to address a crisis that is certain to last much longer. (Ballhaus and Restuccia, 3/29)
The New York Times:
White House Airlifts Medical Supplies From China In Coronavirus Fight
A commercial aircraft carrying 80 tons of gloves, masks, gowns and other medical supplies from Shanghai touched down in New York on Sunday, the first of 22 scheduled flights that White House officials say will funnel much-needed goods to the United States by early April as it battles the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak. The plane delivered 130,000 N95 masks, 1.8 million face masks and gowns, 10 million gloves and thousands of thermometers for distribution to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, said Lizzie Litzow, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Ms. Litzow said that flights would be arriving in Chicago on Monday and in Ohio on Tuesday, and that supplies would be sent from there to other states using private-sector distribution networks. (Swanson, 3/29)
The New York Times:
Trump Said He Was The President Of Manufacturing. Then Disaster Struck.
When President Trump came to office, he promised a new day with America’s manufacturers, casting himself as the first president who understood their needs. He toured factory floors, often handing out his signature “Make America Great Again” hats. Yet in the first national crisis that required harnessing American manufacturing ingenuity and ramping up production of ventilators, perhaps the most crucial piece of equipment for patients in crisis, the White House’s ability to gather the power of American industry crumpled. (Sanger and Haberman, 3/29)
Trump Orders GM To Make Ventilators Under Defense Production Act
President Donald Trump on Friday ordered General Motors to produce ventilators under the Defense Production Act."Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course. GM was wasting time," the White House said in a statement. (Brady, 3/27)
F1 Mercedes Team Made A Breathing Aid For Coronavirus With UCL In Less Than 100 Hours
Formula 1 engine manufacturer Mercedes has teamed up with clinicians and university engineers in London to design a breathing aid for coronavirus patients that can be quickly mass produced, a development that could help reduce the need for ventilators. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, which was re-engineered from an existing device in fewer than 100 hours, has been recommended for use by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, according to a statement from University College London (UCL), which worked on the project. (Riley, 3/30)
Trump Accuses Hospitals Of Hoarding Ventilators
U.S. President Donald Trump accused hospitals on Sunday of hoarding ventilators that are in scarce supply across the United States as the coronavirus spreads, adding any hospitals not using the devices must release them. Trump, whose critics have accused him of trying to deflect blame over his handling of the crisis, did not cite any evidence to back his accusation that hospitals were hoarding the devices. It was also unclear which medical facilities he was referring to. “We have some healthcare workers, some hospitals ... hoarding equipment including ventilators,” Trump said at the White House following a meeting with corporate executives, including from U.S. Medical Group. (Bose and Stewart, 3/29)
The Washington Post:
Trump Blames Hospitals For Mask And Ventilator Shortages
Trump’s boldest claim was about masks. He noted that current demand wasn’t commensurate with what hospitals typically use and suggested that masks were “going out the back door.” “It’s a New York hospital, very — it’s packed all the time,” he said. “How do you go from 10 to 20 [thousand masks per week] to 300,000? Ten [thousand] to 20,000 masks, to 300,000 — even though this is different? Something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Are they going out the back door?” (Blake, 3/29)
Trump Brags About High TV Viewership Of Coronavirus Briefings
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday bragged about the millions of people tuning in to view his daily press briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, saying on Twitter that his average ratings matched a season finale of “The Bachelor.” (Wolfe, 3/29)
President Trump Authorizes Ready Reserve Forces To Fight Coronavirus: Here's What That Means
President Donald Trump recently authorized the Pentagon to call-up units of the National Guard, reserves and individuals from the Individual Ready Reserve, to assist with the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, Trump said he signed an executive order that would give the Defense Department "the authority to activate the ready reserve components of the armed forces." "This will allow us to mobilize medical disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members, including retirees," Trump added. (Martinez, 3/28)
Unions Urge Chamber Of Commerce To Stop Lobbying Against Defense Production Act
Union leaders called on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to stop lobbying President Trump against using the Defense Production Act (DPA), a law that gives the president broad authority to increase the manufacturing output of critical items in a national emergency. Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had been pressing the administration to not use the act but Trump bucked the business community on Friday by using DPA to force General Motors to ramp up production of ventilators. (Gangitano, 3/29)