(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) joined his Oversight Committee colleagues in sending a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing grave concerns about widespread shortages of personal protective equipment, severe shortfalls with ventilators and other critical medical equipment, and a dangerous lack of hospital bed capacity.
The letter, which seeks a briefing for Committee Members next week, was signed by Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, National Security Subcommittee Chairman Stephen F. Lynch, Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly, Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin, and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Harley Rouda.
“Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who work with sick patients are at heightened risk of contracting coronavirus,” the Chairs wrote. “They should not be forced to choose between caring for patients and protecting their own lives and the lives of their families. Yet many health care professionals who do not have sufficient equipment are already putting their health on the line to treat patients. If they become ill, hospitals will lose critically needed staff to treat the influx of patients. If providers continue to work without adequate protection, they will be more likely to transmit the virus to patients and other health care workers, which will exacerbate this pandemic even further.”
Last night, Oversight Committee Members received a briefing from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter T. Gaynor. When asked by several Committee Members about severe shortages in personal protective equipment around the country, Administrator Gaynor and his staff explained that FEMA is now working to develop a system to track the supply chain and availability of critical supplies.
However, he cautioned that FEMA has only been “at this for 48 hours.” Despite FEMA officials’ claims that the agency has been responding to the coronavirus outbreak since January, Administrator Gaynor was not invited to the join the White House coronavirus task force until “earlier this week,” and FEMA did not host its first “interagency synchronization call” until yesterday.