Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker said Sunday that states have resorted to competing against one another for desperately needed medical supplies that are dwindling as hospitals work to treat coronavirus patients.
“We’re competing against each other. We’re competing against other countries. You know, it’s a wild west, I would say, out there. And indeed, we’re overpaying, I would say, for (personal protective equipment), because of that competition,” Pritzker, a Democrat, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
“This should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government.”
That sentiment was echoed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo later Sunday. He also said states have been competing with one another and suggested the federal government “take over contracting and acquiring all the medical supplies” needed.
“(States) just can’t deal with finding the medical supplies that they need,” Cuomo said. “I’m trying to buy masks — I’m competing with California, Illinois and Florida, and that’s not the way it should be honestly.”
Cuomo said New York has been grappling with severe price gouging, saying masks the state previously purchased for 85 cents a piece are now being marked as high as $7 each.
And although health officials are working to steady the rate of spread in New York, current numbers are indicating a pretty difficult situation for hospitals, Cuomo said.
“Right now, the curve suggests we could need 110,000 hospital beds, and that’s obviously a problem, and that’s what we’re dealing with,” Cuomo said.
Top healthcare officials have said that the U.S. does not have enough stockpiled medical equipment like masks, gowns and gloves to fulfill the anticipated need of the nation’s health care system as the number of cases surge nationwide.
The burden has been placed on governors and state officials, with President Donald Trump saying last week that they should work with private companies to secure masks and other items. Days later, the President said the federal government had procured millions of masks and would be distributing them directly to the states, but officials so far have not provided details on the specific supplies or amounts sent.
On Sunday, Trump praised the coronavirus response without providing specifics, saying in a tweet, “Working very well with States and our Nation’s Governors. #TEAMWORK.”
Meanwhile, dentists and other businesses have been donating equipment and supplies to hospitals that are reporting shortages while treating coronavirus patients.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency — which the White House has put in charge of coordinating the federal response — is pulling supplies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national stockpile and working with private companies to ramp up production.
FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor said in an interview earlier Sunday on the same program that if state officials find needed items on the market, they should purchase them and the agency would pay them back later.
“The demand on these critical items is not only nationally, it’s globally,” Gaynor said. “So, we’ve been shipping. We shipped today, we’re going to ship tomorrow. We’re linking supplies, not only from the national stockpile, but from vendors and commercial donations. And it’s just not about the federal government buying it. It’s also about those hospitals and other facilities, governors that, if you find it on the market, go ahead and buy it. FEMA will reimburse you for it.”
Pritzker told Tapper that although it’s helpful having FEMA as the “central repository for everything that we need” and that his state has received some requested supplies from the agency, it’s “a fraction” of what has been requested so far.
“So we’re out on the open market, competing for these items that we so badly need and we’re succeeding in some ways,” he said. “But we still need more. So I’ve got people on the phones, working the phones, calling across the world, frankly, to get this stuff shipped to Illinois.”
As of Sunday morning, there are at least 26,039 known cases of the novel coronavirus in the US and more than 300 deaths from the disease caused by the virus, according to a tally by CNN.
KTLA’s Marissa Wenzke contributed to this report.