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Senators from the Silver State seek major boost in production of hospital supplies
Nevada’s U.S. senators say a new, record-breaking coronavirus relief package will help curb the deadly virus’ spread, even if it doesn’t immediately fix a desperate shortage of equipment in the state’s hospitals.
A $2 trillion stimulus bill unanimously approved by senators on Wednesday includes $100 billion for hospitals and $16 billion for gloves, masks and medicine already being rationed across the state and the country.
That sounds like a lot of money, but it may not amount to much if manufacturers can’t keep up with soaring demand for medical equipment.
Gov. Steve Sisolak says Nevada has only received about 25 percent of the hospital gear and tests sought in four separate requests for federal aid, underscoring state and local officials’ struggle to snap up supplies during the pandemic.
That’s why U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., says President Donald Trump needs to do more to mobilize the mass-production of medical gear.
“I’ve been incredibly frustrated by this,” the first-term senator from Henderson said during a Thursday conference call with reporters. “So one of the things I have done is cosponsor the Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act, which is going to require the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, so we can increase the volume of ventilators, respirators, gloves, face masks, surgical gowns — all the other equipment that goes along with that.
“We don’t have enough (equipment) available. … That’s the administration’s role here.”
The Defense Protection Act, or DPA, was first enacted during the Korean War and would essentially force businesses to fill government orders for in-demand medical equipment.
Trump has invoked some, but not all, of the broad powers spelled out under the law, explaining in a Sunday news briefing that he wasn’t interested in “nationalizing our businesses” in the fight against COVID.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said he needs to go further.
“Here’s the challenge, right now our governor and our state are competing with other governors in other states, and with the private sector, to purchase supplies,” she said during a brief Thursday interview with the Reno Gazette Journal. “We’re all competing with one another. That’s not what should occur.
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“We’ve asked the president to invoke and implement the DPA because once it’s implemented, the federal government, or one agency, becomes the one point of contact and it can get this equipment where it needs to be.”
That approach has also been endorsed by several Reno-area doctors and nurses who spoke with the RGJ.
Nurses at Renown Regional Medical Center on Monday said Northern Nevada’s largest hospital is failing to properly isolate and test possible coronavirus patients and does not have enough face masks to ensure hospital employees’ safety.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal detailed similar shortcomings in a Thursday report that found widespread rationing at Southern Nevada health facilities.
Wednesday’s coronavirus stimulus package is the largest ever OK’d by Congress.
The Silver State is expected to receive $1.25 billion under the measure, not including direct payments to residents, emergency small business loans and tax breaks for the state’s hard-hit casino industry. Officials in all 17 Nevada counties are expected to get a cut of the cash freed up by the bill.
James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.
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