GOP Senator Demands Probe Into Ventilator Management

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Demand for lifesaving medical equipment has gradually been growing across the country amidst the steadily spreading Coronavirus pandemic, but the Trump administration has repeatedly failed to help struggling localities meet their needs. At a press conference this week, Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner complained that states wanted assistance from the Strategic National Stockpile at all. Now, a letter has emerged that Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican, sent to the inspector general overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services, insisting upon an investigation into reported mismanagement of national ventilator reserves.

Gardner insisted:

‘Troubling reports indicate that potential contracting delays and maintenance failures are contributing to a low supply of operational ventilators during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic at a time when our country desperately needs them.’

Need is, indeed, very high — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that his city could run out of ventilators by Monday or Tuesday, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo indicated that the state as a whole only had enough ventilators to last until a couple of days beyond that point, if that. Trump has responded by at times suggesting that local authorities are lying about how many supplies that they actually need.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently told a House panel that the federal government has fewer than 10,000 ventilators on hand, and according to the officials and publicly available projections, demand for ventilators will soon fly past what’s actually on hand. Most of the some 100,000 ventilators that Trump has promised the U.S. will soon procure reportedly won’t be available until at least June — long after they’re needed. If Trump and those around him had taken the Coronavirus situation seriously earlier than they did, preparations could have been underway to keep this potentially life-threatening delay from ever unfolding.

According to The New York Times, thousands of the ventilators that the federal government does have available for distribution aren’t even in working order, because — under the Trump administration’s watch — the contract with the company that had been assigned to maintain the devices expired. A contract was only renewed in January of this year. Gardner, among other specifics, wants information about the reported ventilator maintenance contract debacle. The Senator wants a conclusion as to whether the U.S. has suffered “mismanagement that led to a shortage of working ventilators or other critical medical supplies or equipment.” That mismanagement would likely fall on the Trump administration — although astonishingly, Trump has already repeatedly blamed Barack Obama for Coronavirus response debacles, which have unfolded three years after he left office.

Gardner’s call for an investigation actually mirrors talk from Congressional Democrats, which Trump has, of course, already complained about. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that he wants to see a “9/11 style commission” to investigate incompetence.

As Schiff put it:

‘First, Trump says he alone will do the oversight on billions in relief money. Then, he says he’ll ignore the transparency provisions required by Congress. Now, he says any oversight is a “witch hunt.” But here’s the truth: Real oversight is vital, because incompetence kills.’