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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, highlighted the importance of interagency coordination to ensure an effective national testing strategy and adequate, high-quality supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the nation’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The Finance Committee hearing entitled, “Part 1: Protecting the Reliability of the U.S. Medical Supply Chain During the COVID-19 Pandemic” is the first of two oversight hearings on the U.S. government’s efforts to bolster the medical supply chain.

Specifically, Senator Carper urged DHS officials to create a coordinated, federal strategy to ensure availability of sufficient PPE through the Defense Production Act (DPA).

“It would be helpful to [DHS] to have a whole-of-government strategy designed to ensure availability of sufficient PPE, including from domestic sources,” said Senator Carper. “It seems the President could provide such a strategy, in part by issuing orders to domestic manufacturers to produce PPE under the Defense Production Act.”

In March, Senator Carper sent a letter imploring President Trump and his administration to fully use all existing authorities under the DPA to develop a comprehensive, coherent strategy to get desperately needed medical supplies – including hospital gowns, surgical masks, testing swabs and ventilators – to states and to present that plan to Congress.

In addition to the need for an overarching federal PPE procurement strategy, Senator Carper also highlighted the need for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to update, share and streamline COVID-19 data collection and testing in response to recent reports of backlogged test results nationwide.

The pandemic has exposed the cracks in our public health system and in particular, our antiquated public health IT infrastructure,” continued Senator Carper. “In too many parts of the country, public health departments are relying on paper and pencil, their fax machines, or old, incompatible software to collect and share COVID-19 test results.”

In April, Senators Carper and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) led a bipartisan letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging increased data collection to improve surveillance of COVID-19 spread as well as improved contact tracing.

A full video of Senator Carper’s remarks can be found here.