Now is not the time for half-measures. As of this writing, New York faces 25,665 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a number that will continue to increase exponentially for the foreseeable future as our testing capacity improves. In order to save lives during these incredibly challenging times, we must take immediate and bold action. This means using every tool at our disposal to stop the spread and combat this virus.
Last week, President Donald Trump said he would invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to support the creation of urgently needed medical supplies, including masks, ventilators and respiratory equipment. Enacted in 1950 at the start of the Korean War, the DPA gives the president the power to direct businesses to produce needed supplies in defense of our nation, for future sale to the federal government.
The DPA guarantees that if a business is directed to produce a product, the government will purchase it. It is a win-win for the public and the business. It is being done on small scales with hand sanitizer in cities across the country right now. In my district, local distilleries could shift to making much-needed hand sanitizer, and there would be a guaranteed market for something the community desperately needs and a supply chain in place for delivery.
Despite having labeled himself a “wartime president,” and now more than 96 hours into a declared major disaster in New York, the president still has not utilized the DPA. Medical professionals across the country are being asked to confront a deadly virus that is spreading at an alarming rate — and to do so with insufficient resources. Moreover, there will be thousands of our fellow Americans in need of life-saving equipment, including ventilators and respiratory equipment. Using the DPA would undoubtedly protect our brave health care professionals on the front lines and save lives in need of urgent care.
The answer here is clear: Put the Defense Production Act into effect, now.
It is essential that this life-saving work begin immediately in order to stem the tide of our rising health care needs and keep our medical professionals safe. I’m encouraged by the work of the Army Corps of Engineers, who are expeditiously working to provide for these much-needed alternate medical facilities here in New York. In the same vein, the president has the authority to help direct the American workforce to create the supplies needed to fill these alternate medical facilities. He needs to put this in motion.
Rural communities, like the ones I represent, are facing acute shortages, not only when it comes to equipment, but also access to care and personnel on the ground. This week, Dutchess County lost a neighbor to this vicious disease, and the number of American deaths continues to increase while our medical system is stretched thinner and thinner. There are American businesses that can help, and they want to do so. But without clear directives from the administration, valuable time to act in the most efficient, responsible and effective manner is lost. The president has a duty to coordinate a response that enables us as a nation to optimize the full value of our collective resources in both the public and private sector.
Now is not the time to send mixed messages or to speculate, as the president has done recently, about scaling back social distancing — an action expert health care advisers vehemently oppose. We need one consistent message, grounded in bold action. Now is the time for clear-eyed leadership that competently and assuredly brings to bear every asset we have at our disposal in order to save lives and protect our medical professionals. We need to use the Defense Production Act now.
Congressman Antonio Delgado (NY-19)
Opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Mid-Hudson News.