Cases explode in Michigan but states outside the hotspots can’t get supplies

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For weeks, the scenes of coronavirus outbreaks in New York, Washington and California have caught the nation's attention as the epicenter of the US crisis.

But as the pandemic grabs elsewhere, the final number of live-saving equipment such as fans, face masks and personal protective equipment – as well as the inability of the national warehouse to compensate for all the deficiencies – comes out clearly, leaving a gap between states that met outbreaks early, and those who see their numbers are increasing now.

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Michigan, the site of one of the nation's fastest-growing outbreaks, has found itself unable to provide an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, with lawmakers telling CNN that Prime Minister Gretchen Whitmer had issued an order just to be told by the company later the federal the government had given an order that would prioritize.

When even New York, the epicenter of the US coronavirus crisis, says it is not getting enough supplies, states that have seen less widespread concern that they will miss out on when the federal government deploys the limited resources it has at its disposal.

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"We see numbers that are very similar to the numbers these states saw 10 days ago," the rep said. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat. "It's really urgent that we don't want to miss the opportunity to stop this to slow it down."

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Michigan lawmakers also report that the state has received only a fraction of the material they have requested from the national inventory. Kildee said the state's entire congressional delegation sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the coronavirus working group, urging the federal government to intervene.

"Confusion has arisen as both states and the federal government try to quickly secure (personal protective equipment) and test supplies," the lawmakers wrote. "In the midst of this challenge, the federal government must ensure that it communicates a clear chain of command to states and uses a data-driven prioritization process to meet the needs of states."

Detroit and Chicago demonstrate about the spread of coronavirus, said Dr. Deborah Birx at Thursday's briefing at the White House.

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"We are concerned about certain counties" that have seen increased spread of the virus, Birx said, naming Wayne County, Michigan (home of Detroit) and Cook County, Illinois (home of Chicago) as examples.

She said these sites showed a "faster increase" in the spread.

Pence said Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would play a greater role in helping states get what they needed, and said he had spoken to a Democrat, Whitmer, about Michigan's questions. "As I told Prime Minister Whitmer today, who is leading his state through all this with great energy, we want to work with her, want to work with every governor and make sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing in terms of getting resources, "said Pence.

But state officials and congressmen say the federal government remains slow to help states as President Donald Trump is unwilling to embrace power Defense Production Act to increase and allocate nationwide production. Although Trump used the DPA to allow the federal government to intervene in factory production and force companies to create more fans, masks and respirators, the effort may still take weeks or months to ramp up.

Trump and Pence held a conference call with governors on Thursday, where tension over the Defense Production Act arose once again.

Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee urged Trump and Pence to nationalize supply and production under the 1950 law, specifically citing the shortage of swabs used for testing, according to two sources known to the conversation. Inslee urged Trump to be a "quarterback" and use the authority at his disposal.

Trump said the federal government would not nationalize supply and production, said one source, but another official Trump administration said it was new guidance from the Federal Drug Administration that allowed easier use of swabs in testing.

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"I think it would be very, very helpful if the federal government could be more confident and aggressive and more organized in helping us all get hold of these systems," Inslee said at a news conference Thursday.

In the meantime, states may be looking to take matters into their own hands. Earlier this week in Michigan, the bipartisan delegation and Whitmer discussed whether the state could create its own supply chain to compensate for federal government shortages. There is still recognition that even if it could be done, it would take weeks or months.

"We work with manufacturers to partner with their supply chains. We get our own manufacturers like Ford, GM and Chrysler involved," the rep said. Andy Levin, a Michigan Democrat. But he claimed it was "a distant second place to have the president of the United States use the power of the Defense Production Act."

Outside of Michigan

And it's not just Michigan. Other states – where outbreaks may be less severe than New York, but where the situation is escalating – become troubled when they share their hard-fought resources, knowing that it can be difficult to get more later.

On Thursday, Indiana Gov. rejected Eric Holcomb the idea of ​​sending PPE and fans to New York right now, even though there are only 645 cases of coronavirus in Indiana, according to CNN Health's recent summary.

"We're not in a position right now as much as we want to be focused beyond our borders," said Holcomb, a Republican. "And we realize that there are hot spots in the country, Los Angeles or New York City or Seattle, others are growing … but right now we're focusing on Hoosier needs, so when we get to the happy day where we can start for to help the rest of the other country recover, we will do that. "

In Pennsylvania, where cases have grown to more than 1,600, there is more evidence that the federal government has created uncertainty.

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said a hospital in her state had paid for 80,000 N95 respiratory masks, only to know that FEMA had diverted the order.

"Not only is the federal government not helping to streamline the supply chain and help bring supplies into the supply chain, but is disrupting it now," Scanlon said in an interview. "These are unusual times and require extraordinary measures. People who work very, very hard at the local level – we drive on roadblocks because we do not have coordination education."

Two Florida Democrats, Representatives Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, wrote a letter to Health and Humanitarian Secretary Alex Azar, warning that Florida needs more swabs for testing, but that the state has received its orders in & # 39; & # 39; drips and dreams & # 39; leaving a lot of test capacity unused. "

In some areas, competition for equipment takes place even at the county level. Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey, where there are nearly 7,000 cases, said in his own district that he has seen mayors and county officials compete with each other for goods. In one county he represents, officials were able to quickly establish a drive-through test site that has run efficiently and with adequate resources. Meanwhile, a FEMA drive through a neighboring county has experienced a number of shortcomings, he said.

"It's crazy that your ability to be tested depends on how quickly county officials acted to leverage a limited supply chain," Malinowski said.

In Massachusetts, where there are more than 1,800 cases, officials say they "continue to try and work the supply chain hard" to increase the supply of personal protective equipment, but to date, the state has received only about 17% of its requests from Strategic National stock, with another shipment still to arrive.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, said Thursday that the state has filed a request through FEMA for federal disaster assistance. "We hope to see the feds move forward with this," he said at a press conference.

Rep. Joe Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the matter was getting worse for the states when they received supplies from the federal government's warehouse because they were not invented, and workers in his state had to spend a full day making one so they could be dispatched out over the state. Kennedy called the competition for bidding for supplies between the states and the federal government "completely detrimental to this process."

"You couldn't come up with a dumber way to do this," Kennedy said.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez and Mike Warren contributed to this report.

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