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Carper urges Trump to develop 'comprehensive, coherent' COVID-19 response

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, sent a letter March 21 imploring President Donald Trump and his administration to develop a comprehensive, coherent strategy to get needed medical supplies, including hospital gowns, surgical masks, testing swabs and ventilators, to states and to present that plan to Congress.

In the letter, Carper urged Trump to fully use all existing authorities, including authorities under the Defense Production Act of 1950, to respond to the coronavirus outbreak with the urgency it demands. Carper also called on Trump and his administration to work directly with governors to assess the current need for supplies and to provide direct military assistance to ensure that critical supplies are getting to states hardest-hit by this public health crisis.

“These supply shortages are putting our health care workers and their patients at heightened risk, and if we fail to keep our health care workers and their patients safe, we fail to maintain a functioning health care system,” Carper wrote to Trump. “I ask that you immediately brief Congress on the administration’s strategy to address this shortage, including all authorities that may be exercised or invoked. In addition to exercising its authorities under the DPA, your administration can and should be taking additional, extraordinary measures to ensure the immediate provision of critical medical supplies to states and localities where they are needed most.”

While Trump has voiced his support for use of the Defense Production Act and claims to have invoked its authority, the public has yet to see details of which companies are being directed to help and what they are producing. The need to fully use this authority, as well as other existing authorities, has support from a broad range of stakeholders — from those on the front lines in hospitals across the country to former senior officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

“Additionally, I urge you to immediately use all authorities possible to ensure that stockpiles of critical supplies are not sitting unused at Federal agencies and departments while states scramble to address the growing crisis,” said Carper. “I implore you and officials in your administration to immediately work to identify all potential sources of emergency medical supplies — including the National Strategic Stockpile, DOD stores and more — and improve coordination to ensure these supplies are being provided to governors in states hardest-hit by the crisis. What’s more, your Coronavirus Task Force should direct military health officials in each of the service branches to deploy quickly to provide direct military assistance to states. Our already stretched-thin National Guard lacks the resources to address this crisis; direct military leadership is what is needed now.”

Carper urged the president to invoke authorities under DPA earlier in the week. On March 17, Carper joined 26 Democratic colleagues in sending a letter urging Trump to use these existing authorities to help address widespread shortages of medical equipment, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

A copy of the letter is available at bit.ly/39dIDDm.