Trump Invokes DPA For Testing Swabs, Weeks After Reported Shortages
Source: Politico, by Alice Miranda Ollstein
President Donald Trump will use the Defense Production Act to compel an unnamed company to produce 20 million more coronavirus testing swabs every month — weeks after labs and public health officials started warning that shortages of these swabs were hurting efforts to ramp up testing nationwide.
In his nightly press briefing on Sunday, Trump repeatedly referred to the swabs as “easy” to procure — especially compared to the ventilators that he has previously compelled companies to manufacture. He even brought a swab as a prop, holding it up next to a Q-Tip before handing it to Vice President Mike Pence.
Asked why his administration waited for weeks to use the Defense Production Act on swabs, Trump alternately claimed that states have “millions coming in” already, that states can produce them on their own, and that governors “don’t know quite where they are” and need the federal government’s help.
“It’s a tremendous hammer,” he said of the DPA. “We have millions of them coming in. They are very easy. … In all fairness, governors could get them themselves. But we are going to do it. We’ll work with the governors and if they can’t do it, we’ll do it.” He added that “we have millions of them coming in very soon.”
The DPA allows the federal government to direct the production and distribution of goods in an emergency. Widespread testing is needed to reopen the country, but coronavirus tests and testing components have been scarce in parts of the country.
Governors battling outbreaks in their states say the swab shortages are serious, and that in the absence of federal aid they have had to get creative.
“The people who are actually going to do the swabbing, many times they don’t have the swabs,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told MSNBC on Sunday morning. “So what we did in Ohio — Ohio State University and our health department got together, formed a group, and they’re working every day to get more swabs out.”
Still, DeWine, a Republican, emphasized that the workaround is far from adequate for the level of testing the state needs to even think about reopening its economy as President Trump has urged.
“We’re making progress, but we’re not where we would like to be certainly,” he said.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, also lamented the lack of tests, along with swabs and reagents, another testing component that is in short supply.
“This is not a unique situation in Michigan,” Whitmer said, citing comments from Maryland’s and Virginia’s governors. “But the crisis that we’re confronting is unique. And that’s precisely why it would really be incredibly helpful if the federal government would use the Defense Production Act to start making these swabs and reagents, so we can improve testing.”
Filed Under: ACA/Health Reform