Coronavirus: Mayors, first responders urge Trump to help them get protective equipment ‘now’ to fight pandemic

Medical personnel from Riverside (CA) University Health Systems hospitals administer a Coronavirus Test to an individual during drive-through testing in the parking lot of Diamond Stadium, March 22, 2020 in Lake Elsinore, California.

Bob Riha Jr | Getty Images

Major groups representing U.S. mayors, county executives, police and fire chiefs and first responders are urging President Donald Trump to use a federal act — which he so far has refused to tap — to get them “essential personal protective equipment” quickly to help them respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our nation’s first responders call on you to address the shortage of essential personal protective equipment needed to keep them healthy and safe while on the job,” the groups wrote in a letter to Trump.

“If we lose emergency personnel to the disease, we cannot transport people to hospitals and protect our citizens,” they said.

The groups explicitly asked Trump in that letter to “use the full force and authorities of the Defense Production Act right now to assure they have the critical equipment and supplies they need.”

But Trump has resisted calls to use that act to compel companies to produce and ship critically needed items amid the coronavirus outbreak, including PPEs, or personal protective equipment.

“We’re getting what we need without putting the heavy hand of government down,” said White House trade advisor Peter Navarro at a briefing Sunday.

But the letter to Trump says otherwise.

“Supply flow and access must be addressed immediately as our vendor orders are not being fulfilled, outdated supplies are being pulled from service and destroyed, and distribution protocols are placing first responders into lower priority tiers,” the groups wrote.

State governors also have decried a lack of masks and other medical equipment, saying they are being forced to compete with one another for that protective gear.

“This should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government…It’s a Wild West out there…Indeed we’re overpaying for PPE because of that competition,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called on the federal government to nationalize the purchases of PPEs and other medical supplies.

In New York City, which is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, more than 50 members of the city’s police department have tested positive for coronavirus, according to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.

The White House had no immediate comment on the letter, which also asked Trump for a meeting to discuss “current obstacles and anticipated challenges” to the first responder community.

“Confronting this health crisis requires a whole government approach,” the letter says.

Signatories to the letter included the leaders of the United States Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs, Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies.

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