Apr 15, 2020 - Health

The U.S. is still scrambling for medical supplies to fight coronavirus

A health care worker in a Maryland hospital.
A health care worker in a Maryland hospital. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The U.S. is still scrambling to get health care workers the personal protective equipment, ventilators and lab testing materials that they need to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Between the lines: President Trump has repeatedly said that governors are responsible for obtaining supplies for their states, but industry groups are asking the federal government to play a larger role.

  • The American Medical Association asked FEMA to create a national system to acquire and distribute personal protective equipment, in light of ongoing shortages.
  • David Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, wrote a letter to coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx asking for more federal help with diagnostic testing supply shortages.

Meanwhile, the private sector is shifting into gear on its own and in partnership with the government.

  • The Trump administration and 20 major health care systems launched a new ventilator loan program that will allow hospitals to ship unused machines to areas where they are needed most to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Axios' Joann Muller reports.
  • General Motors started manufacturing ventilators on Tuesday under a $489.4 million federal contract. But it will take until August to produce all 30,000 the government ordered under the Defense Production Act.
  • Space-focused organizations around the U.S. are now looking to manufacture ventilators and other much-needed health equipment to aid the pandemic relief effort, Axios' Miriam Kramer reports.

1 scary stat: Prescription drugs needed by patients on ventilators are being filled only 53% of the time so far in April, as demand has skyrocketed, according to Vizient, a health care purchasing group.

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