Portland Press Herald Editorial Board: Trump’s failure to act is “going to get Americans killed”


Today, the Portland Press Herald editorial board highlighted the shortages of medical equipment necessary for the coronavirus response in Maine and the dangerous consequences of Trump’s failure to invoke the full powers of the Defense Production Act to ramp up manufacturing. Rather than using the powers of the presidency to require companies to manufacture personal protective equipment and ventilators, the Trump administration delayed production of new ventilators over cost concerns and appears to “have little handle on who is doing what” as their request for voluntary action fails to produce sufficient supplies. 


For weeks, Mainers have been calling for more federal action to address health care equipment shortages and warning that Trump’s insufficient response “is not nearly enough and [...] is going to get Americans killed.” But on yesterday’s Maine Calling, when Senator Collins was asked directly whether she agreed with the president’s decision not to invoke the Defense Production Act, she misled Mainers and failed to answer the question -- meanwhile, her big business backers have been lobbying the Trump administration against invoking the Defense Production Act


“It’s past time for Senator Collins to put the health and safety of her constituents ahead of the demands of the corporate special interests supporting her campaign,” said Maine Democratic Party Executive Director Lisa Roberts. “Senator Collins must call for Trump to invoke the full powers of the Defense Production Act to boost manufacturing of the lifesaving equipment our health care professionals need.”


Portland Press Herald: Our View: Lack of protective, medical supplies continues to put Americans in danger


By The Editorial Board

March 27, 2020


Key Points:


  • The novel coronavirus spreads exponentially. A single case, left unchecked, can become thousands in only weeks. When it comes to the response to the outbreak, mistakes work the same way. They compound each other, quickly turning what seemed to be a manageable crisis into one that risks spiraling out of our control.


  • Dr. Jabbar Fazeli, spokesman for the Maine Medical Directors Association, told the Press Herald this week that few coronavirus tests have been conducted at the state’s 93 nursing homes and 200-plus assisted-living facilities. When tests have been conducted, it has sometimes taken a week or more for results.


  • Both the lack of tests and the delay in results are caused by a shortage of testing supplies, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Wednesday, said Dr. Shah, about 1,300 tests statewide were waiting to be processed, in addition to the 3,300 or so already completed.


  • While waiting for test results, health care workers must assume that the patient will test positive, and must use scarce masks, gloves and other protective equipment for each interaction.


  • That’s just one more strain on already-strained supplies – it is expected, for example, that the U.S. this year will use four times more of the most protective masks than in a typical year. The shortage means some, perhaps many, health care workers will be left to treat patients without proper protection, putting them in danger.


  • Health care workers are already vulnerable to the disease. Each time one is infected, it pulls a trained worker from the frontlines and lowers the health care system’s capacity to provide treatment, bringing it to a crisis point quicker than most people realize.


  • The same can be said of the lack of ventilators, which in a pandemic can go from keeping hospital officials up at night to causing deaths suddenly as severe cases spike.


  • This is where the federal government has to flex its muscle. The Trump administration cannot delay any longer in requiring companies to manufacture these products. It needs to take control of the supply chain, and get scarce materials where they are needed most.


  • Instead, the president is asking for voluntary help. Some businesses and individuals have responded wholeheartedly, but his administration appears to have little handle on who is doing what, and there is no indication it will be enough.


  • President Trump is leaving it to states to procure their own supplies, which is driving up prices and forcing them to compete with each other, and with foreign governments that have coordinated their national response.


  • It is not nearly enough, and it is going to get Americans killed. Officials in New York say they will need 30,000 ventilators within the next few weeks; the federal government has promised only 4,000 more.


  • The Trump administration should have began stockpiling supplies more than two months ago. Failing that, it should have started in the last few weeks to marshal all the resources of the federal government toward production.


  • With each day the administration fails to do that, the problem is compounded. The president should not wait any longer.