Healthcare workers all around the world have been working as hard as possible to help contain the spread of COVID-19. With this pandemic and the need for doctors, nurses and other health care workers also comes the need for personal protective equipment (PPE).
PPE often encompasses materials such as gloves, masks, goggles and other protective garments that people must wear in order to do a certain task. In a healthcare setting, PPE mostly refers to gloves, masks, eyewear and gowns in order to protect as much exposed skin as possible. Wearing this PPE helps ensure that the healthcare workers who are working to treat people are not exposed to COVID-19 as well.
However, due to the dire need for PPE, many hospitals and clinics are facing a shortage. Many hospitals have been attempting to use alternatives that are not completely safe or recommended. In Los Angeles, emergency room doctors were given expired masks, and upon putting them on, the elastic snapped. Some clinics are even considering shutting down because they do not have the proper supplies that their healthcare workers need.
In addition to PPE, because this is an upper respiratory illness, many people who have tested positive for COVID-19 need ventilators to help them breathe. Like with PPE, the U.S. is facing a shortage of ventilators.
The U.S. should have been more prepared for this pandemic. Instead, President Donald Trump did not take it seriously for a while. In fact, he only recently agreed to extend social distancing guidelines until the end of April, giving up on his inane idea that a miracle would happen near Easter. This decision came after much convincing from Dr. Anthony Fauci, top medical advisor and infectious-disease expert.
Due to the sheer incompetence and carelessness of Trump, the U.S. is suffering. Only recently did he begin using the Defense Protection Act (DPA), which is generally a wartime act that allows the White House to demand that private companies assist in any efforts. However, he has only used this act so that General Motors can build ventilators — which are much needed — when in reality, he should be using it in so many other ways.
For example, he should expand it so that more companies are making ventilators and ensure that companies also focus on manufacturing more PPE. These are the materials that we need to take care of the people who have already tested positive for COVID-19, and to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread even more.
Healthcare workers are suffering. Patients are suffering. The population is suffering. The U.S. government — especially the president — needs to take this pandemic more seriously. The number of cases in the U.S. has been climbing at an alarming rate and in order to take care of the sick population as well as the healthcare workers, the country needs more materials such as PPE and ventilators.
Currently, states are imploring the federal government for aid. However, there have been many problems. In Montgomery, Alabama, 28 cases containing 5,880 masks approved by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were discovered to be unusable because they had dry rot. Many states have not even received what they requested. If the government had been more prepared, this would not be as much of a problem.
At this point, Trump needs to use the DPA in order to have more companies making PPE, ventilators and other necessary products. As “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver points out, Trump should have done this months ago, because these products still take time to make.
“It’s not like the DPA can just magic them out of nowhere. It could still take months for companies to make them. That is why it would have been nice if Trump had invoked it f****** months ago,” Oliver said in his episode that aired March 29.
In order to help make up for the miserably underprepared state that the nation is in, some researchers are figuring out alternatives in this situation. In fact, Amy Kuceyeski, an associate professor in mathematics and radiology at Cornell University saw a post that talked about 3-D printing masks for healthcare workers. She then implored people in her community who had idle 3-D printers to help the effort.
The shortage of PPE, ventilators and other necessary equipment has been terrifying, but efforts like this can help, despite Trump’s clear ineptitude and dismissal of the severity of the situation. The nation needs more PPE, ventilators and other supplies in general, and the government needs to recognize that in order to take care of the population.
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Anika Veeraraghav is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.