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Duquesne’s Nickole Nesby and Braddock’s Chardae Jones joined more than 30 other mayors of cities and boroughs across Pennsylvania to ask the federal government to increase production of medical supplies and coordinate distribution to communities.
In a letter signed by 113 municipal leaders from across the United States and released Monday, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group called on the federal government to do a better job of coordinating response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s time for leaders in Washington to have our back,” said John Henry, mayor of West View, north of Pittsburgh. “The federal government must do its job coordinating national disaster response to get us the masks and ventilators we need to save lives. Every minute counts.”
Other Mon Valley elected officials signing onto the letter included Monessen Mayor Matt Shorraw, Monongahela Mayor Gregory Garry and Wilkinsburg Mayor Marita Garrett, as well as Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
The letter cites reports that state officials have been forced to bid against one another on the open market for medical supplies, driving up prices for taxpayers.
It calls for the federal government to increase production of medical supplies and immediately establish a “medical equipment czar” and associated task force with the mission of overseeing the national supply and distribution of medical equipment for the duration of the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.
Emma Horst-Martz, a spokeswoman for U.S. PIRG’s Pennsylvania affiliate, said that although President Trump has given authority to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to increase production and oversee allocation of medical equipment, that authority has not been put to full use.
The letter from the mayors also asks the president’s coronavirus task force to promise “full transparency to the public” and state and local governments about how resources are being requested and allocated.
“We don’t have time to waste,” Horst-Martz said in a statement. “As soon as possible, we need to make sure that medical providers and first responders have the protective equipment they need. And we need to make sure that hospitals get more ventilators so that those medical providers can save the lives of thousands of Americans who will soon flood our hospitals.”
Health experts warn that a lack of medical supplies — from ventilators to medical grade N95 face masks — could lead to higher rates of coronavirus infection and death.
However, the federal government and all 50 states are competing with each other to procure and distribute those crucial items, U.S. PIRG said.
Pennsylvania officials who signed the petition include the mayors of Aliquippa, Bethlehem, Chester, Easton, Lancaster and State College.
Originally published April 08, 2020.