House chairman calls on Trump administration to appoint medical supply coordinator

House chairman calls on Trump administration to appoint medical supply coordinator
© Greg Nash

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottLack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen Unions worry Congress is one step closer to a liability shield Victim advocacy groups, Democratic lawmakers slam new campus sexual assault policies MORE (D-Va.) on Friday called on the Trump administration to appoint a designated official to coordinate the efforts to distribute adequate protective gear and supplies to health workers across the United States.

In a letter to Vice President Pence, the chairman of the coronavirus task force, Scott and Rep. Alma AdamsAlma Shealey AdamsDemocrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard COVID-19 could exacerbate eating disorders rates in children — here's how to combat it Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups MORE (D-N.C.) argued that having someone dedicated to addressing the nationwide shortage of medical supplies would help improve coordination across all states.

Hospitals, health workers and local officials are warning that they're quickly running out of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gowns and gloves to help ensure the safety of doctors and nurses providing medical care to patients with the virus.

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The shortage is all the more urgent as dozens of health care workers have already contracted the coronavirus ahead of preparations for a spike in patients in the coming weeks like.

“There is no apparent coordination to ensure newly manufactured respirators and other equipment are being distributed to the highest priority areas as they become available,” Scott and Adams, who chairs the Education and Labor subcommittee on workforce protections, wrote. “It is essential that this life-saving PPE is directed to the facilities most in need, and this requires a higher level of coordination than now exists."

They pointed to the Trump administration appointing Adm. Brett Giroir to coordinate coronavirus testing efforts among public health agencies as a precedent to help address a shortfall in the U.S. efforts to respond to the pandemic.

"Without this kind of leadership our health care workers will be left unprotected, at risk, and unable to do their jobs, putting our entire public health system at risk,” Scott and Adams wrote.

The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association asked Congress this week to provide $100 billion to help ensure that hospitals and other medical providers have enough resources for the pandemic.

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Governors across the country have also pleaded with the Trump administration to provide more federal support to obtain enough medical supplies and equipment.

Trump this week signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act, which would allow the administration to direct U.S. industries to increase production of necessary equipment.

But Trump later tweeted on Wednesday he would only invoke the law in a "worst case scenario," adding "hopefully there will be no need."

By Friday, Trump said at a press conference that the law would be used "for certain things that we need."

"We invoked it I think the day before, we signed it the evening of the day before and invoked it yesterday. We have a lot of people working very hard to do ventilators and various other things," Trump said.