SACRAMENTO, March 24, 2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today sent two letters – one on behalf of California and one as part of a coalition of 16 attorneys general – urging President Trump to fully invoke the Defense Production Act to respond to states’ immediate need for additional vital supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Both letters urge the federal government to act swiftly and decisively to get as many needed supplies produced and distributed as quickly as possible in California and states across the country.
“It is crucial that we use every tool in our arsenal to fight coronavirus. Every moment counts in our work to expand access to crucial medical resources needed by our frontline responders,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That’s why we are calling on the President to take decisive action now and fully invoke the Defense Production Act to accelerate access to critical medical supplies such as N95 masks, testing kits, and ventilators in California and states throughout the country. We must ensure that those on ground zero of this pandemic, our nurses, doctors, and other first responders have these life-saving resources to combat this extraordinary public health threat.”
In the multistate letter, the attorneys general highlight the acute need to dramatically increase the nation’s healthcare capacity; the supply of personal protective equipment for healthcare providers and first responders; and COVID-19 testing capacity. While the states recognize that the federal government has distributed – and will continue distributing – these critical supplies, the letters emphasize that a far greater volume of supplies is needed to combat the public health threat posed by COVID-19.
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In California alone, there are currently 2,220 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 42 deaths resulting from the virus. And these numbers are likely to increase exponentially. Yesterday, California Governor Gavin Newsom reported that our state is short 50,000 hospital beds, 1 billion protective gloves, and hundreds of millions of masks. Hospitals and medical centers have been forced to ration test swabs and personal protective equipment to protect healthcare providers. The rate of infection threatens to overwhelm the state, its healthcare system, and its residents.
Additionally, state healthcare systems across the country require more ventilators and ICU beds. Healthcare professionals on the front lines need personal protective equipment such as N95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, eye protection, gloves, gowns, sanitizers, cleaning supplies, and thermometers.
Furthermore, there is a nationwide need to increase the supply of the reagents and swabs used for COVID-19 testing so that testing can be expanded substantially. These resources will allow states, public health officials, and healthcare professionals to work more effectively to combat and defeat the public health threat.