In the second appeal in a week, the American Medical Association called on the Trump administration on Friday to address a “critical shortage” of coronavirus testing kits and personal protective gear for health care professionals that “remains unmet.”
“For days, physicians and frontline healthcare workers have been sounding the alarm that there is nowhere near enough PPE [personal protective equipment] ... a shortage that endangers patients and jeopardizes the entire response to this virus,” Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the AMA, said in a statement.
Supplies are so scarce that physicians are “wearing a single mask all day, cleaning them at home, and sewing their own protective gear,” according to the statement.
The plea from the organization, which represents a quarter of a million physicians in the U.S., called on the White House to “pull every lever at their disposal to ramp up test kit availability and to equip physicians and the healthcare workforce to fight the virus. Anything less is unacceptable at this critical juncture.”
While President Donald Trump on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act that grants him emergency powers to increase the manufacture of critical medical supplies, it remains “unclear to what degree that authority is being utilized,” the statement said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he urged Trump in a phone call Friday to finally get production moving. Trump assured the senator he would, then “yelled to someone in his office to ‘Do it now,’” according to a Schumer spokesperson, Politico reported.
Trump said Wednesday that he would only use the emergency production powers in the “worst-case scenario.” But he then declared at his news conference Friday: “We are using it for certain things that we need,” including ventilators and “millions of masks that are coming.”
On Wednesday, the AMA sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, the coronavirus task force head, noting that the administration had informed the organization that limited protective gear in the Strategic National Stockpile “will not be able to meet the needs of our nation’s health workforce.”
The AMA also expressed deep concern about reports from physicians of a “severe shortage” of essential coronavirus testing components needed to assess samples. “Shortages of these essential supplies are forcing physicians to severely restrict access to testing services,” the letter stated.
Trump falsely said early this month that “anybody that needs a test gets a test,” despite a major shortage of coronavirus tests. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified last week that the testing situation in the U.S. was “a failing.” He said Friday that the “reality” is that people with symptoms are often still unable to get tests but that the situation is “getting better.”
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