Lawmakers, Hospital Executives Call for PPE Stockpile

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The demand for Personal Protective Equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented. And with experts saying that we are about to enter the most challenging months of the pandemic – lawmakers are calling on Congress to step up and use the Defense Production Act to make more PPE in America and nationalize distribution of it.

“The demand has been unprecedented throughout this process. It would have been almost impossible to predict the use rates that we would experience as a result of a global and worldwide pandemic,” Jeffrey Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford Healthcare, said.

Hartford Healthcare has spent $28 million on PPE over nine months. Last year, they spent $3.7 million on PPE during the same time period. Flaks called for the creation of a national stockpile.

“It forced healthcare systems like ours to compete globally against other countries, nationally against other states, and against all other health systems like us,” Flaks said. 

There were 150 patients in Hartford Healthcare facilities Monday with COVID-19. 

“We’re a nation at war. The common enemy here is COVID-19. And when a nation is at war we have to make sure there is a united effort across all 50 states,” U.S. Rep. John B. Larson said.

Larson said the nation needs to coordinate its efforts.

“It’s important that we nationalize this effort and we have the United States military, of whom there is no better or more capable group to coordinate, work with and make sure we accomplish this,” Larson said.

Larson said legislation would put public pressure on the president to act, but it’s not as easy as it may sound.

Tom McGuire, vice president of Industrial Heater in Cheshire, was manufacturing metal nose clips for face masks -- producing 5,000 per day in the early days of COVID-19, but demand for those has dropped off.

“The demand for the clip is not where the shortage is. The problem is the mask itself and the material for making the mask. So that’s melded poly and spunbound non-woven and that’s where the shortage in our country is coming from,” McGuire said. 

Normally, Industrial Heater makes sheet metal products and heaters which go in injection molding machines.

“We’re currently working on a production line for face masks, surgical masks and N-95 masks which is separate from what’s going on in this building,” McGuire said.

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