Can He Do That?

States are competing for life-saving medical equipment. Who decides where it goes?

April 02, 2020, 9:58 pm • 33m

As the spread of the novel coronavirus grows in the United States, many states finds themselves in need of medical equipment like ventilators and protective equipment for health care workers.Yet, for most states getting said equipment has not been easy. Requests have begun to outweigh supply and many states complain there’s a lack of guidance about how they can secure life-saving supplies.Governors are making increasingly frantic requests to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for materials. State and congressional leaders are flooding FEMA with calls seeking clarity about how resources will be allocated. Several calls have been made straight to the president himself, and some governors seem to have better luck in those calls than others.While states like Oklahoma and Kentucky have received more of some equipment than they requested, others like Illinois, Massachusetts and Maine have secured only a fraction of their requests.This disparity has led many state officials to raise the question of whether Republican states are receiving more favorable treatment from the federal government during this crisis. And while there’s no direct evidence that’s the case, President Trump has contributed to the sense that politics could be a factor. Specifically, Trump has publicly attacked Democratic governors who criticize his handling of the public health crisis.So, is there political bias in who gets resources right now? Who, exactly, controls the way resources are allocated in an emergency? And what happens when state health departments and hospitals are left without the supplies they so desperately need?On this episode of the“Can He Do That?” podcast, Dr. Paul Biddinger, the chief of the emergency preparedness division at Massachusetts General Hospital offers insight on what resources hospitals need right now and White House reporter Toluse Olurinippa discusses president’s inconsistent process for deciding how to distribute resources across the country.Additional coronavirus resources:washingtonpost.com/virusnewsletterwashingtonpost.com/coronaviruswashingtonpost.com/podcastsRelated episodesThe U.S. stumbled at the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Can we make up for lost time?Does the president have much power to control a viral outbreak?

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