WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to use its authorities under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to provide immediate, additional supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Central Virginia and across the country.
In a letter sent to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Spanberger called on HHS to use the full powers of the DPA to increase U.S production of PPE and to better coordinate information sharing between nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and distributors.
“We write on behalf of the thousands of our constituents who live, work, or have family members in nursing homes to emphasize the need for urgent action to protect residents from the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Spanberger. “We urge you to take advantage of the authorities granted to you by the Defense Production Act to ensure that nursing homes receive enough personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
During the past week, Seventh District nursing homes and long-term care facilities have experienced growing numbers of coronavirus cases and coronavirus-related deaths. Additionally, staff at these facilities in Central Virginia have urgently requested additional PPE supplies as they face acute shortages of masks, protective gloves, and disposable gowns.
The DPA authorizes the President or his delegate, in this case HHS Secretary Azar, to use an array of incentives and cooperative agreements to mobilize domestic industry during a national emergency like the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter was also signed by U.S. Representative Denver Riggleman (R-VA-05).
Click here to read the bipartisan letter. The full letter text is printed below.
Dear Secretary Azar,
We write on behalf of the thousands of our constituents who live, work, or have family members in nursing homes to emphasize the need for urgent action to protect residents from the COVID-19 outbreak. We urge you to take advantage of the authorities granted to you by the Defense Production Act to ensure that nursing homes receive enough personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Nursing home residents and workers are especially vulnerable to the virus. In these settings, residents, families, and workers are in constant and intimate interaction, facilitating the virus’s spread. One of the earliest and most deadly outbreaks of COVID-19 occurred in a Washington state nursing home. Since COVID-19 was identified in the facility, 2/3 of the residents have tested positive for the virus and 35 people have died. Dozens of the facility’s workers have been diagnosed as well.
Personal protective equipment is essential to slowing the spread of the virus and preventing another tragedy on the scale of what occurred in Washington state. Unfortunately, nursing homes lack robust inventories of personal protective equipment. Worse still, supply chain practices prevent nursing homes from quickly restocking. When products go into shortage, distributors limit clients’ orders based on the client’s recent order history. Limiting nursing homes’ ability to purchase based on their purchasing history puts too many residents and staffers at risk of infection.
The Defense Production Act authorizes you to incentivize the production of materials essential to the national defense and direct their allocation across the country. We urge you to invoke those authorities to increase production of personal protective equipment and improve information sharing among nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and distributors to ensure that nursing homes most at risk of a COVID-19 outbreak have prompt access to the necessary personal protective equipment they need to keep their residents and workers safe.
Thank you for your prompt attention to these matters.