The current supply crisis has been precipitated by a variety of administration failures, from cuts to international programs for disease detection and preparation to a refusal to swiftly mobilize supplies. Trump did not declare a national emergency until March 13 and the federal government did not start issuing major federal contracts for the purchase of personal protective equipment, as The Intercept previously reported, until early and mid-March.
Despite demands by public health officials and lawmakers, Trump moved sluggishly to deploy the Defense Production Act, a law that allows the federal government to compel private firms to produce vital supplies.
Lobbyists with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an influential business trade group, reportedly pressed the administration against using the act. It was not until March 27 that Trump finally utilized it to narrowly compel General Motors to build ventilators.
The failure of the U.S. to recognize Covid-19 as a serious problem follows years of efforts to dismantle federal programs designed to maintain international disease surveillance. The Trump administration cut 14 employees from the Beijing office of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and closed U.S. Agency for International Development programs in China working to monitor disease outbreaks over the last two years. In 2018, Trump disbanded the National Security Council office devoted to pandemic preparation.
The disorganized response has led to confusion over whether the U.S. government can meet surging demand across the country. Governors have reported receiving lackluster support when requesting supplies from the federal government.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, has asked USAID to bring reserves of protective medical equipment from warehouses in Dubai and Miami for use across the country.
Other supply issues reflect a deference to industry that has come to define many elements of the Trump administration.
A recent ProPublica story spotlighted a promising effort to stockpile ventilators in preparation for a respiratory pandemic — that failed to deliver in time for the current crisis.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided a contract to develop 10,000 low-cost ventilators from Philips Respironics, an American subsidiary of Royal Philips N.V that produces medical respiratory equipment. But the device, the Trilogy Evo Universal, was never delivered to the national stockpile. The terms of the contract do not require delivery until November 2022, and sources for ProPublica suggest that the administration granted a preferential window to Philips that has allowed the company to first sell the product to a variety of buyers at higher prices.
The subsidiary, CBP records show, has instead exported at least six shipments of respiratory equipment abroad, largely to Europe, over the last two months. Last November, the company also shipped products associated with the Trilogy Evo Universal to the Netherlands.
Asked whether the company would focus on meeting the acute demand in the U.S., the Philips parent company demurred in a statement.
“Philips believes that critical medical equipment, such as hospital ventilators and patient monitors, should be made available across the world, prioritizing those communities and countries that need it the most, using a fair and ethical approach to allocate supply to acute patient demands based on data such as the COVID-19 risk-classification of a country/region,” said Steve Klink, a spokesperson for Philips.
“Orders may be divided into batches and delivered in phases so that we can serve multiple priority countries/regions in parallel,” Klink added.
This content was originally published here.