The Trump Administration wants states to conduct “robust” testing. There’s just one problem: They’re hoarding the supplies.
MICHIGAN — The coronavirus pandemic has had a major throughline in the struggle states had to obtain supplies from the Trump Administration. As daily discussions about the virus become less harried, that problem has not been resolved.
June 2, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer testified to Congress about Michigan’s struggles getting supplies in the early days of the pandemic, and how still the state struggles to get supplies to carry out testing on the scale needed to really manage the future of the coronavirus. President Trump, however, has left states largely on their own securing that testing.
As Kaiser Health News reported, Trump put the responsibility to conduct testing squarely on the states, and he erroneously said that the supplies states had were enough to conduct the testing needed.
“Testing is the foundation of COVID-19 crisis response,” Gov. Whitmer testified. “To safely re-engage our economy and resume in-person social activities, we must respond nimbly to new data about transmission and health risks of the virus, which is why our ability to test our population remains paramount. Through Herculean efforts, Michigan has made strides in scaling up testing in the state.”
Specifically, an 81-page document from the Department of Health and Human Services calls for robust testing and contact tracing from the states, while medical services publication EMS World reports that states will still have to compete against one another and the federal government when it comes to stockpiling supplies, as the Trump administration won’t share the national stockpiles HHS is amassing.
“We have a next-generation Strategic National Stockpile focused on having 100% of the products needed for a pandemic — it had 28% when we inherited it — making sure it has inventory for a 90-day backup supply,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters. “Of course, states, locals, the private sector have to be on the front lines, and they have to responsibly build up their own surpluses.”
As the curve flattens, there still is dire need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies. Kaiser reports what federal aid nursing homes get, for instance, is unreliable and, when it arrives, often substandard. Instead of medical-grade masks needed in healthcare environments, some nursing homes got cloth masks. Instead of medical gowns, some got blue plastic ponchos.
“It’s like putting a trash bag on,” Pamela Black, the administrator of Enterprise Estates Nursing Center in Enterprise, Kansas, told Kaiser. “There’s no real place for your hands to come out.”
And as the Daily Beast notes, the need for PPE and supplies like ventilators is far from over. As states begin to reopen, a new wave of infections is likely. And though the point of flattening the curve was to increase the ability of healthcare systems to address the pandemic, that means preparing more than just for the cases that exist today, but the cases that may exist tomorrow.
Already, the New York Times reports that sunbelt states like Florida and Arizona are seeing spikes in coronavirus cases. NPR reports that those might not be indicative of a second wave of the virus, because the first wave isn’t over yet.
“We really never quite finished the first wave,” Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor of global health at Harvard University told NPR. “And it doesn’t look like we are going to anytime soon.”