The U.S. seems to be in short supply of all things medical needed to fight coronavirus. The answer a simple one. Money talks. Key medical supplies are being shipped by U.S. manufacturers to foreign buyers.
Blood is on the hands of those manufacturers. They have failed to take care of their own. Money more important than human lives.
I am going to open with a shocker. I shall close with one also. In between, the gruesome details.
Forbes reported on monday that 280 million masks in U.S. warehouses were purchased by foreign buyers.
The Forbes article written by David Di Salvo was published monday. Significant information for this blog was also obtained from The Intercept’s Lee Fang in an article published yesterday and from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show last night.
Face masks have specific brokers. Di Salvo spent a whole day with them. He personally observed the 280 million masks being sold to foreign buyers.
A big number. Especially when doctors and nurses are wearing masks for several days instead of using only one time. Many of these first responders coming down with the virus as a result.
Di Salvo also discussed the matter with FEMA. He was told, The Agency “has not actively encouraged or discouraged U.S. companies from exporting overseas.”
Always a paper trail. The information in the Forbes article was discovered in the files of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection records. The Agency is required to maintain vessel manifests.
The records evidenced crucial medical equipment needed to treat caronavirus being shipped to East Asia and Europe as recently as March 17.
Primary items shipped included N95 masks and purified air personal respirators used by medical staff. As well as ventilators used by patients.
Such items in low supply in U.S. hospitals. One of the sources described the U.S. as “dithering” while the much need supplies were being shipped out of American ports.
I do not accuse Trump or his staff of any wrongdoing. Their sin is one of misfeasance rather than malfeasance. They forgot to pay attention, to watch the store.
Drive De Vilbiss Healthcare is a Pennsylvania firm. It produces supplemental oxygen machines. The company made 3 different shipments of respiratory equipment to Belgium in mid February.
Vapotherm is a New Hampshire firm. Involved with respiratory equipment. Recent months have brought a surging demand from international customers. The company added 50 employees and a second shift.
Vapotherm’s first foreign customers were Europe based. The result of coronavirus. The company then began shipping to New York City, Seattle, Georgia and Florida.
On March 8, Vapotherm shipped 2 tons of the company’s high flow disposable patient circuits used for operating respiratory aids. The circuits were loaded on a container ship in Los Angeles and sent to Kobe, Japan. The receiving company was Medicalnext Co., a health care distributor.
Vapotherm’s records also show respiratory equipment, medical garments, medical masks, oxygen concentrators, and ventilators sent abroad in the past 2 months.
A St. Louis company named Allied Healthcare Products shipped 1.5 tons of ventilator masks to Hamburg, Germany. The masks were used in the company’s portable ventilator unit.
Global demand for health care products like thermometers and pulse oxinators surged in early January when when it became clear the pandemic was getting out of hand in China.
While U.S. manufacturers were shipping to 24 different foreign countries, including South Korea and Germany, the 24 countries banned exports of all health care products in order to shore up their domestic supply. They took in, but did not ship to the U.S.
Trump imposed tariffs come into play.
Whereas the U.s. had not placed restrictions on exports of medical supplies, it continues with financial penalties (tariffs) on U.S. import of medical products. Such as personal protection gear, protection googles, pulse oximeters, hand sanitizers, and other medical products.
The U.S. had and is still trying to import medical items from China. The same China the U.S. has heavily tariffed. The same China Trump proudly says is paying the U.S. billions of dollars because of the tariffs.
China not a friendly partner in providing the U.S. with medical products.
Trump temporarily lifted tariffs on 3/10 and 3/12. The tariffs had been in place since 2017 on some of the medical products.
While U.S. manufacturers were selling to foreign countries in January and February, the Trump administration should have been stockpiling those products.
The current medical supply crisis exists because of a number of Trump administration failures. One or two alone might not have been a problem. Cumulatively, a killer.
There was a failure to recognize a “national emergency” till 3/13.
The federal government failed to start issuing major federal contracts for personal protective equipment till early and mid March.
The administration made cuts in international programs for disease detection and preparation.
Trump’s refusal to swiftly mobilize supplies.
Trump moved sluggishly to deploy the Defense Production Act.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce pressed the Trump administration not to invoke the Act. Trump finally succumbed and invoked it for the first time on 3/27 to compel General Motors to build ventilators. When GM capitulated, Trump withdrew the Act. An example of Trump’s consistent leaning in favor of corporations.
Trump’s failure to recognize Covid-19 as a serious problem following years of dismantling federal programs designed to maintain international disease surveillance.
He cut 14 employees from the U.S.’s Beijing office of the CDC.
He closed the U.S. Agency for International Development Program in China whose purpose was to monitor disease outbreaks over the last 2 years.
In 2018, Trump disbanded the National Security Council office devoted to pandemic preparation.
The federal government cannot come up with enough ventilators and other medicinal supplies. The result of an absence of planning.
Trump’s consistent deference to industry. It defines many elements of the Trump administration.
Finally for best or the worst of Trump’s screw ups. Whatever way you want to look at it.
The Department of Health and Human services contracted with Philips Respironics to develop 10,000 low cost ventilators. Referred to as Trilogy Evo Universal.
The ventilators were never delivered to the national stockpile.
The contract did not require delivery till 11/22.
Sources suggest the Trump administration granted a “preferential window” to Philips that allowed the company to first sell, if it was able, the product to a variety of buyers at a higher price.
Philips has made at least 6 shipments of the respiratory equipment largely to Europe in the last 2 months.
When asked if it would now meet the acute demand in the U.S., its parent company Royal Philips N.V. said, “Philips believes that critical medical equipment, such as hospital ventilators and patient monitors, should be made available across the world…..”
What more can be said?
We are screwing ourselves.