As state and local governments struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. government efforts to get needed protective gear to medical professionals and economic relief to Americans have been slow and inadequate, experts say.
President Donald Trump has not used the Defense Production Act to coerce private business to produce ventilators and face masks for hospitals that are short on both. Instead, he tweeted at General Motors for failing to build promised ventilators and derided governors like Andrew Cuomo of New York for calling him out.
Upon hearing that New York would receive 400 ventilators, Cuomo dismissed the effort as too little, too late.
“What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?” Cuomo said at a press conference.
Ventilators are critical to help people who have developed life-threatening respiratory symptoms from covid-19. A lack of ventilators in Italy, a country hit hard by the coronavirus that causes the disease, left doctors and patients with impossible choices.
According to multiple outlets, a septuagenarian priest died after requesting that his ventilator go to a younger patient. The New York Post reported that engineers are making ventilators out of snorkeling masks to try to lessen the shortage.
In the United States, local governments have asked retired health professionals to come to the front lines to help in hospitals overrun with coronavirus patients. Groups have marshaled volunteers to sew masks for health care workers who cannot access sufficient protective supplies.
States reported that 3.3 million people applied for unemployment insurance in a single week — the largest amount of first-time unemployment claims in history. Congress responded by signing a massive $2.2 trillion relief package that will put $1,200 in the pockets of Americans making under $75,000 per year (based on 2018 tax returns) and bolster unemployment insurance by $600 per month.
That won’t be enough, said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“Meeting this crisis will demand a sustained response by all of us — and Congress is no exception. Lawmakers will need to do substantially more in subsequent bills to address urgent needs in areas like health coverage and food assistance for struggling families,” Greenstein said.
Canada has committed to giving $2,000 a month to people who lost their jobs. Britain announced that the country would pay the wages of employees in order to keep businesses and their workers afloat.
The United States will give most taxpayers $1,200, with $500 per child, and earmarked $500 billion for businesses.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more in the Apr. 1-7, 2020 issue.