Massachusetts mayors join national call to urge the Trump Administration to centrally purchase and distribute medical supplies

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Massachusetts mayors join national call to urge the Trump Administration to centrally purchase and distribute medical supplies

Boston — More than 100 mayors and county executives across 17 states delivered a letter to the Trump administration today urging the federal government to use its emergency powers to ramp up production of critical medical supplies like ventilators and masks, and to centrally distribute those materials. Several Massachusetts mayors joined the call, including Paul Brodeur of Melrose, Michael Cahill of Beverly, Gary Christenson of Malden, Carlo DeMaria of Everett, Kimberley Driscoll of Salem, Thomas McGee of Lynn, Jon Mitchell of New Bedford, Alex Morse of Holyoke, Dan Rivera of Lawrence, Domenic Sarno of Springfield, Sumbul Siddiqui of Cambridge, and Yvonne Spicer of Framingham. 

“In Holyoke and cities across the country, manufacturers are retooling to produce life not live-saving PPE. Unfortunately, hospitals and city governments have been left to fend for ourselves and PPE is heading overseas to the highest bidder,” said Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. “Every day that this administration waits to invoke the Defense Production Act and procure PPE for our communities, more frontline workers, from nurses to fire fighters, are put at risk for infection. We need action now.”

Health experts warn that a dearth of medical supplies — from ventilators to N95 masks — needed to safely treat people infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) could lead to higher infection and death rates. However, the federal government and all 50 states are competing with each other to procure and distribute those crucial items.

“We don’t have time to waste,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG Legislative Director. “It’s common sense to coordinate, rather than compete, in this crisis; and we need to get that message to the federal government now, if not sooner. We are grateful for the mayors’ leadership in calling for reform to get the much-needed medical equipment to our communities across the country.”

The letter started by MASSPIRG’s national affiliate, U.S. PIRG, calls for the federal government to step up its efforts to increase production of medical supplies and centrally coordinate medical equipment during the COVID-19 crisis.

In recent days, the president has taken some action to increase federal involvement with allocation and production of medical equipment, including through the creation of a Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) The FEMA task force, however, has laid out a mission that focuses on facilitating private sector operations, rather than taking charge of the national supply chain. As a result, states and health care providers are still being forced to bid against one another for life saving supplies, and hospitals are not getting the materials they need. 

Mayor Dominic Sarno of Springfield, issued the following statement after signing onto the letter, “This public health emergency situation has affected all of us across the nation. The needs of our cities, states, hospitals and other healthcare facilities to proactively respond to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 has put stress upon our first responders and front line personnel. It has pushed our resources to their limits. Now more than ever, we need a coordinated effort on a national scale to meet the ever growing demands of the purchasing and distribution of medical equipment.”

The letter from mayors calls on the federal government to establish a medical equipment task force that will oversee the purchase and end-to-end distribution of medical equipment, and monitor and respond to all equipment requests from states, local governments and/or medical providers. It must also be carried out with full transparency and clear communication from the federal government to state governments and all other stakeholders. 

“Mayors are on the front lines of their communities, and their voices are much needed in a federal bureaucracy which is not responding either quickly or efficiently enough to meet the needs of this crisis,” concluded Cummings.