Tag Archives: PPE

Why Competence Matters….

I’m so tired of writing about the Coronavirus pandemic, and I’m sure most of you are equally sick of reading about it–or receiving updates to the monumentally-long list of ways the Trump administration continues to commit malpractice–or worse.

But the hits keep coming…

You know we are in uncharted territory when a Republican governor admits that he is hiding protective gear and testing supplies from the federal government.

Not only is the administration not helping states navigate this pandemic, it is appropriating critically needed supplies and according to multiple reports, doling them out in ways that favor political allies and punish states seen as insufficiently enamored of “dear leader.”

Now, a report from the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services has again highlighted the multiple failures of the administration. (There’s a reason Trump is constantly firing or otherwise neutering Inspectors General…) Update: Yesterday, Trump–reportedly furious– fired the IG who submitted this report.

NBC News reports that the HHS IG found that hospitals across the United States are lacking supplies as basic as thermometers, even as they’re being undercut by their own federal government in trying to acquire new supplies.

 “Vendors have told us that they need to send whatever they have to the national stockpile,” said Ruthanne Sudderth, senior vice president for the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

Additionally, the report found that supplies delivered to states by the federal government were either inadequate or defective.

“One hospital received two shipments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency with protective gear that had expired in 2010,” NBC News writes. “Another hospital system received 1,000 masks from federal and state governments, even though it expected a much larger delivery, and ‘500 of the masks were for children and therefore unusable for adult staff,’ the report said.”

Professionals have characterized these and other failures listed in the report as “unprecedented.” (One hospital administrator reported sending his staff to auto part shops,  home supply stores, beauty salons and art supply stores in an effort to find gloves and masks.)

Hospital administrators around the country also complain that conflicting guidance from federal, state and local governments is causing confusion.

A report on the situation from NBC News  met with a response directly out of that “alternate reality” Trump inhabits.

President Donald Trump on Saturday said hospital administrators speaking to his administration were “thrilled” about their situation.

“Many hospital administrators that we’ve been in touch with, even in the really hotspots — you know what they are — are communicating directly with us that their level of supplies are meeting essential needs. And at the current time, they’re really thrilled to be where they are,” Trump told reporters.

All of the other failures reported pale in comparison to the shortage of testing supplies. The inability to test sufficient numbers of people and to get the results of those tests promptly delays the day the nation can reopen, and further strains an already inadequate system.

Diagnostic testing kits to identify patients or staff members with the virus were also in short supply, according to the inspector general. Hospitals said they were struggling with “a severe shortage of test kits,” limiting their ability to monitor the health of patients and staff members, the report said. There were also problems with incomplete testing kits missing nasal swabs or reagents to detect the virus.

“Across the industry millions are needed and we only have hundreds,” a hospital administrator was quoted as saying.

The shortage of testing kits was aggravated by delays in testing results, straining hospital resources and bed capacity as doctors waited for the results, the report said. One hospital reported test results’ taking as long as eight days, it said.

Hospitals said that presumptive patients waiting for test results took up bed capacity needed for other patients, according to the report, and that staff members were forced to use personal protective equipment, or PPE, as a precaution because of the slow pace of test results, wasting precious resources.

The armed idiots storming state capitols to demand an end to measures that are saving lives should be storming the White House and demanding competent governance.

But of course, that would require another possession that is apparently in short supply, at least in their ranks: cognitive capacity.

 

This Isn’t Just Incompetence

My Facebook feed has been full of unkind comments about the “protestors” who gathered together–in close quarters–to bewail the loss of their “liberty” to catch and spread the Coronavirus.

Granted, these gatherings were small, and definitely not genuine grass-roots displays. Numerous reports have identified the the rightwing, “astroturf” organizations funding and organizing them. Participants, however, have been drawn from the ranks of the true believers–the people who are convinced by the conspiracy theories of loonies like Alex Jones and who look askance at “elitists” like Dr. Fauci.

A few days ago, I posted about the critical social role played by trust, and the importance of    government in creating it. As the saying goes, fish rot from the head. When you cannot trust anything your government tells you, why would you trust the CDC? Or your doctor? (Why is my doctor pushing vaccines? Is s/he getting a kickback from Big Pharma?)

It’s easy enough to look at the recent protests and conclude that the participants are stupid or demented or both. For that matter, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that anyone still supporting Donald Trump is similarly demented–or so consumed by the racism and bigotry Trump stokes that nothing else, including basic competence, matters.

After all, in order to believe that the pandemic is a politically-motivated hoax–in order to risk your life on that belief, you would have to overlook more than the overwhelming ineptitude of this administration.

You would have to be able to ask–and answer— the following questions:

Why would a President who claims to be addressing (“perfectly”) a serious public health crisis encourage people to rise up against the very measures his administration has advocated to abate that crisis?

Why would a President insist on lying about the availability of testing and equipment? Nearly a month ago, Trump promised that 27 million tests would be available by the end of March. We are now in the latter part of April, and according to most reports,  only 4 million tests have been conducted.

Why would an administration tell the states that dealing with the pandemic is their job, and proceed to make it more difficult for those states to get the protective equipment they need? Reports like this one have been widespread.

Over the last few weeks, it has started to appear as though, in addition to abandoning the states to their own devices in a time of national emergency, the federal government has effectively erected a blockade — like that which the Union used to choke off the supply chains of the Confederacy during the Civil War — to prevent delivery of critical medical equipment to states desperately in need. At the very least, federal authorities have made governors and hospital executives all around the country operate in fear that shipments of necessary supplies will be seized along the way. In a time of pandemic, having evacuated federal responsibility, the White House is functionally waging a war against state leadership and the initiative of local hospitals to secure what they need to provide sufficient treatment.

If a President isn’t doing anything wrong–i.e., stealing us blind, or withholding supplies from states led by Democrats, or diverting funds meant for struggling Americans to wealthy friends and supporters–why does he undermine any and all efforts to monitor his behaviors?

Time Magazine recently reported on Trump’s most recent refusal of oversight. Congressional Democrats had insisted that the bill authorizing pandemic aid contain three oversight mechanisms: an inspector general at the Treasury Department to oversee the $500 billion Treasury fund, and Congress and executive branch panels to monitor the Treasury fund and broadly oversee the law’s implementation. Trump signed the bill, but said he would ignore those provisions, and would not allow the Inspector General overseeing the executive branch’s committee to submit reports to Congress. This is arguably illegal/unconstitutional, and entirely in character: Trump has waged war against rules and Inspectors General throughout his term.

Gee, I wonder why?

Presumably, protestors and others who believe in the various conspiracy theories think that facts–some reported by multiple, credible journalists, some attested to by Trump’s own tweets and bloviations–are false. They, and only they, are privy to the real story.

Many of the dispiriting details of the real real story, of course, probably won’t be known for years. One thing, however, is already clear: the malpractice of this horrific administration goes way, way beyond mere incompetence.

And it is killing people.

 

 

WTF?

Sorry for the inelegant headline, but…

We’ve all gotten used to hearing about the continued shenanigans of this corrupt administration: the purge of federal employees who earned Trump’s enmity by actually doing their jobs; the continued rollback of environmental protections; the cushy contracts with friends and supporters; etc.

We’d have had to be blind to have missed the central policy imperative motivating Trump–overturning anything and everything Obama ever did, no matter how sane, helpful or appropriate. That’s why one of the first things he did when he assumed office was dismantle the pandemic preparation task force Obama had established.

We’re also well aware of the incredible ineptitude of this administration. Governors and public health officials are pleading for coherent policies, for protective gear, for straight talk–none of which they are getting.

Okay. So we know he’s corrupt, insanely jealous of the black guy who preceded him, and totally ignorant of how government (and much else) works. But what explains this? 

At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall reports

Let’s talk about these seizures of PPE goods by federal authorities. There are a number of instances of this and as I noted in the post below a number of reasons why it might be happening. There are numerous cases where orders placed by states or hospitals have been canceled after they have been outbid by federal authorities or federal authorities have ordered vendors to sell to the federal government. According to Kaiser Health News, those compelled sales appear to be pursuant to an executive order President Trump signed on March 18th under authorities granted by the Defense Production Act.

But what I’m more interested in are reports of federal authorities confiscating physical shipments en route to states, local governments or regional hospital systems. The most publicized case of this came at some point in March when, according to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a shipment of 3 million masks ordered through BJ’s Wholesale was seized by federal authorities in the Port of New York. Baker did not say which agency confiscated the goods or under what authority. That incident was what led to the widely reported and successful effort to fly goods in from China using the New England Patriots jet.

Another case happened just yesterday when the top county official in Somerset County, New Jersey, Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson, announced that a shipment of 35,000 masks had been confiscated by federal officials. According to this report in the Franklin Reporter and Advocate, “As of early in the afternoon of April 3, Robinson said that the county was told the surgical face masks would be delivered that day, but that the federal government had taken the N-95 masks.

Evidently, there have been a number of other, similar incidents reported, including what Marshall says is a “reliable report of a major non-governmental entity in the western United States having a major shipment seized by federal authorities at an airport in California.”

This is inexplicable–and just nuts. (Hence the “headline” of this post.) Every time Trump holds one of his briefing-cum-political-rallies,  he insists that the states are responsible for getting their own supplies and should only appeal to the federal government in emergencies. Why, then, would federal authorities be seizing shipments that states, local governments and major medical organizations have managed to locate and purchase?

As Marshall says,

In any case, we need to know more. States have been asking the federal government to take over the process of provisioning the country with these critical PPE goods. That at least would avoid states being forced to bid up prices by bidding against each other. After having FEMA swoop in and purchase ventilators that Colorado was in the process of buying, Gov. Jared Polis (D) said: “Either be in or out. [Either let] us know what we’re going to get and when we’re going to get them or stay out and let us buy them.” But these seizures of shipments are at best causing confusion for desperate states and hospitals. And they seem so haphazard that they are raising legitimate questions about whether they are being allocated to states in a preferential or politicized fashion.

If this was part of a legitimate FEMA effort to allocate supplies more equitably, the narcissist-in-chief would undoubtedly have bragged about it. So I repeat: WTF is going on?