WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — A group of medical equipment distribution companies told lawmakers they have “troubling concerns” about the continuing lack of supplies for healthcare workers in COVID-19 hot spots, according to a memo from the House Oversight Committee.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-SC, read some of the companies’ warnings during a coronavirus oversight hearing Thursday, including how the supply of personal protective equipment, like masks and gowns, still isn’t keeping up with demand.
“We intend to get to the bottom of this,” Clyburn said. “Why is it that the greatest nation on earth cannot get a 63-cent mask to everyone who needs one?”
During a press briefing Thursday at the White House, President Trump insisted U.S. companies “have all the equipment they need.”
The head of the administration’s Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force, Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, told lawmakers state stockpiles have come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Seventy percent of the states have at least 30, 60, 90 days of supply on hand,” Polowczyk said.
The companies worry the administration has allowed politics to get in the way of a functional national supply chain, creating a free-for-all where each state must take charge of buying and distributing protective equipment.
“Nobody’s letting their foot off the gas,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-LA.
Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise, R-LA, defended the administration’s response to the pandemic.
“As China was lying to us and the rest of the world, they were hoarding PPE supplies,” Scalise said.
Scalise noted one solution is to bring PPE manufacturing back to the U.S., which he said helped solve the shortage of ventilators in the early stages of the pandemic.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force still expects multiple treatments ready by fall with a vaccine early next year.