Healthcare Associations Praise President Biden’s Executive Order on PPE, Testing

Jan. 22, 2021
National healthcare associations and consumer advocacy groups on Thursday praised President Joe Biden’s executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to produce more PPE and supplies

National healthcare associations on Thursday, Jan. 21 expressed praise for the actions that President Joe Biden took on that day, his second day in office as President of the United States, as he issued a number of executive orders, including one related to the production and distribution of PPE (personal protective equipment) and supplies, and the boosting of testing, around the COVID-19 pandemic. The President took the extraordinary step of invoking the Defense Production Act to make it happen. While in office, President Donald Trump had been urged for months to invoke the Defense Production Act around various aspects of the pandemic, but had never done so.

As NBC News’s Shannon Pettypiece reported, “On his second day in office, President Joe Biden signed 10 executive orders to ramp up Covid-19 vaccinations, expand testing and reopen schools as he outlined a detailed plan to tackle the pandemic. Biden's team began warning weeks ago that they saw the outgoing administration's covid-19 vaccine plan as subpar, and since he took office on Wednesday, the new president has moved quickly to implement a new framework for getting vaccines into arms. As part of the plan, the new administration will increase the number of vaccination sites by creating federal community vaccination centers in stadiums, gymnasiums and conference centers staffed with thousands of additional workers, some of them from federal agencies and the military, as well as first responders. Biden said there should be 100 of those centers next month.”

Further, Pettypiece wrote, “In signing the orders, Biden told reporters that ‘We didn't get into this mess overnight and it is going to take months to get it turned around,’ as he warned that the country will likely top 500,000 deaths next month. ‘But let me be equally clear, we will get through this, we will defeat this pandemic.’ Biden's 198-page plan also looks for ways to speed vaccine production, including using the Defense Production Act, shoring up the supply chain and releasing more of the federal government's reserves. Biden encouraged all states to start vaccinating people 65 and older, along with certain essential workers, including teachers and grocery store employees.”

In fact, as the Sinclair Group’s Leandra Bernstein reported, “President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act Thursday to ensure needed supplies are available to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and meet the goal of delivering 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days of his administration.” ‘This is a wartime undertaking,’ Biden said at a press briefing. ‘Today I'm signing an executive action to use the Defense Production Act and all other available authorities to direct all federal agencies and private industry to accelerate the making of everything that's needed to protect, test, vaccinate and take care of our people.’ The Executive Order On A Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain directed agencies to identify supply chain challenges and prevent material shortages from slowing down the effort to get as many Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible. The administration has already identified 12 shortfalls, including syringes, N95 masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), test supplies and lab analysis machines. It is also looking ahead to secure supplies that might create bottlenecks around vaccine distribution, like glass vials, stoppers and needles. ‘Where we can produce more, we will. Where we need to use the Defense Production Act to help more be made, we'll do that too,’ Biden's COVID-19 supply coordinator Tim Manning told reporters Wednesday.”

These were all elements in the just-released “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” released on Thursday.

In a statement released by the Charlotte-based Premier Inc. on Thursday evening, Blair Childs, the association’s senior vice president, public affairs, said, “Premier applauds President Biden for leaping into action to strengthen America’s work to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which aligns with Premier’s recommendations to protect Americans against the virus and ensure a coordinated, data driven response.  We strongly support the Executive Order to accelerate manufacturing, delivery, and administration of medical products that focuses first on supplies that Premier has identified as facing shortages, including N95 masks, isolation gowns, nitrile gloves and pipette tips. We also urge the administration to prioritize manufacturing of sterile water, which has experienced a 200 percent increase in demand and is necessary for a broad array of COVID-19-related treatment across the care continuum. We also need greater visibility and transparency in the supply chain to pinpoint the areas of greatest risk. We urge the Biden administration to form strong public-private partnerships to help identify these areas of need.”

Childs’s statement went on to say that, “Over the past year, Premier has worked closely with the federal government, our member health systems and manufacturers to ensure an adequate stock of PPE and drugs to protect against, treat and contain COVID-19, as well as to identify emerging shortage risks. Through Premier’s ProvideGx, Premier has created a long-term predictable supply demand by partnering with manufacturers to fill gaps in production of more than 150 drugs that are or have recently been in shortage. Premier has also created an investment vehicle that has allowed us to help the nation enhance domestic and geographically diverse manufacturing capacity. While these private-sector innovations have bolstered the nation’s supply, the progression of the pandemic requires accelerated solutions from the federal government. Premier looks forward to working with the new Biden Administration to advance today’s announcements and additional economic incentives and policy changes to ensure that healthcare manufacturing meets demand during this critical time.”

What’s more, the statement read, “Finally, Premier commends President Biden for issuing an Executive Order directing federal agencies to work together to advance innovation in public health data and analytics to combat the virus. We agree that the federal government should prioritize and accelerate efforts for consistent and nationwide public health data collection, exchange and sharing using data and interoperability standards. Premier stands ready to help in these efforts to modernize our public health data system.”

On Thursday evening, the Chicago- and Washington, D.C.-based American Medical Association (AMA) also released a statement praising President Biden and the new Biden administration. “With COVID-19 continuing to spread rampantly throughout the U.S., we applaud the Biden Administration for taking immediate action today to activate the Defense Production Act (DPA) to ramp up the production of personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as testing and vaccine supplies desperately needed to stem the spread of illness and deaths,” said the statement, attributed to AMA president Susan R. Bailey, M.d. “We are hopeful that the steps taken today will quickly fix the supply chain issues that have plagued the U.S. for many months—providing health care professionals with the PPE they need to protect themselves, their patients, and families from illness, ramping up testing to identify COVID-19 illness more quickly, and getting the vaccines into more arms.”

What’s more, Dr. Bailey stated, “Since March, the AMA has called on the federal government to implement a coordinated national strategy and pull every lever to ramp up PPE production for N95 masks, gowns, gloves, as well as testing supplies - and coordinate distribution. We commend the new Administration for moving swiftly to implement a desperately needed national strategy to combat COVID-19, including a health equity task force to address the inequities that have been exacerbated during the pandemic.” 

In addition, the Washington, D.C.-based association America’s Essential Hospitals released a statement on its website on Thursday evening. “America’s Essential Hospitals applauds President Biden’s swift pledge to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness and related executive orders,” the statement, attributed to association president and CEO Bruce Siegel, M.D., M.P.H., said. “Essential hospitals nationwide have experienced the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on communities of color and other underserved populations. We are grateful for the president’s pledge to create a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, improve access to treatment, and enhance COVID-19 data collection, as well as a renewed dedication to fill medical supply shortfalls in communities in need.”

Consumer interest groups also offered praise. Just prior to President Biden’s signing of the executive order, the Denver-based U.S. PIRG, a national consumer advocacy organization, posted a press release to its website, stating that “President Joe Biden is expected to issue a set of sweeping executive orders Thursday to combat COVID-19. They will include using the Defense Production Act to ramp up testing, boost production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and any other materials needed to distribute and administer the vaccines. The president will also establish a board tasked with expanding testing capacity. Last spring, U.S. PIRG mobilized more than 100 mayors and 300 health professionals across the country to call for full use of the Defense Production Act to produce and distribute PPE.”

And, once the President had signed the order, Matthew Wellington, U.S. PIRG’s public health campaigns director, released the following statement: “We’re nearly a year into a war against COVID-19, but we still lack the necessary tools to fight. The previous administration passed responsibility to the states and local governments to secure PPE and testing, creating a chaotic marketplace rife with confusion and competition. The result is that health professionals still don’t have the equipment they need to keep themselves safe, and experts say we should be doing four times more testing than we are now to suppress the virus. President Biden’s actions today will go a long way toward giving our country a fighting chance against this virus. We’re calling on Congress to swiftly approve the billions in funding that the president has requested to fully implement these measures.”

Biden’s actions on Thursday were part of his administration’s extensive efforts to move forward rapidly to address the pandemic, which has sickened more than 24.6 million Americans and killed more than 409,000 as of Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. As The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann and Morgan Chalafant noted on Thursday, “Biden on his first full day in office unveiled a 100-plus page national strategy to defeat COVID-19, which focuses on accelerating vaccinations while slowing the spread of the virus with increased mask wearing, more testing and other public health measures. He also signed 10 executive orders aimed at blunting the public health crisis.  To that end, Biden announced his administration directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin standing up community vaccination centers, with the goal of opening 100 across the country within the month.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also launch a program to expand access to vaccines through local pharmacies. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work to recruit more health workers to serve as vaccinators. Biden’s remarks came the day after he was sworn in as president and demonstrated the central focus he is putting on the coronavirus response as he takes office as the country grapples with the continuing high cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19,” they wrote.

Further, Hellmann and Chalafant wrote that Biden “expressed cautious optimism about the path forward while promising that his administration would level with the American public on the true threat posed by the virus.” “We will level with you when we make a mistake. We will straight up say what happened,” Biden told reporters on Thursday, adding that “We are still in the dark winter of this pandemic.”

Hellmann and Chalafant wrote that “Biden has set a goal of administering 100 million coronavirus vaccines in the first 100 days of his presidency to curb the threat of a virus that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and more than 2 million globally to date.  Some experts have said 100 million vaccinations in that time frame isn’t ambitious enough, but asked about that after the event Thursday, Biden replied: ‘When I announced it, you guys said it wasn’t possible. Come on, man,’ he added. ‘It’s a good start.’”

Even more broadly, as the New York Times’s Cheryl Gay Stolberg noted on Thursday evening, “The orders included new requirements for masks on interstate planes, trains and buses, the creation of a national testing board and mandatory quarantines for international travelers arriving in the United States. Mr. Biden predicted that the national death toll from Covid-19 would top 500,000 next month, refusing to play down the carnage that his predecessor was loath to acknowledge. The mask requirement for public transportation, coupled with the order Mr. Biden issued on Wednesday requiring mask-wearing in all federal facilities,” she noted, “edges the country toward the kind of comprehensive mask mandate that has dominated debate at the state and local level between public health advocates and those defending what they called individual liberty.”

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