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Pocan & Baldwin to FEMA: “We Need Better Emergency Management for Wisconsin NOW”

Jun 1, 2020
Press Release

MADISON, WI—This morning, Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) sent a letter to Peter Gaynor, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator, detailing continued problems with the amount and usability of medical and testing supplies FEMA has delivered to Wisconsin. FEMA’s support is critical to Wisconsin’s ability to respond to the coronavirus. But, without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies from the federal government, Wisconsin will be left even more vulnerable in the face of this global pandemic that has already taken the lives of over 100,000 Americans.

“This administration turned its back on the people of Wisconsin early on in this pandemic,” said Congressman Mark Pocan. “First, the Trump administration failed to get our state the supplies it needs to expand testing and protect our communities. Then, when they finally get us supplies, they send many that are unusable for the pandemic. This pattern of apparent negligence from the top has a human cost and our state cannot tolerate this administration’s incompetence any longer.”

“President Trump has not provided Wisconsin all the medical supplies we have requested,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin. “Shortchanging Wisconsin and sending us unusable medical supplies is simply not acceptable and it’s not going to help our state move forward. The President’s mismanagement of the medical supply chain throughout this pandemic is just one of the many failures of this administration’s response to the public health crisis we continue to face. This White House needs deliver the medical supplies Wisconsin desperately needs to shut down this pandemic, safely reopen our economy and put people back to work.”

There were systematic problems in late March and April with getting supplies to Wisconsin. There appeared to be a renewed interest, specifically from FEMA, in getting supplies to the states in later April, but according to actual records of items received, the problems continue.

Most recently, Governor Tony Evers laid out the supplies that state needed in an April 30 letter to FEMA. Almost a month later, we’ve received only about 22% of what we have requested—including zero surgical gowns.

Even when Wisconsin has received supplies from FEMA, some of the most critical materials have been completely unusable. 17,000 saline tubes are too short to transport the nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs used for the majority of COVID-19 tests, and 67,983 foam applicators that cannot be used for NP swabs either. 

“We still are not getting the supplies we need in the quantities necessary to fight Covid-19,” continued Congressman Pocan. “And too often, when we received supplies, they weren’t usable for the purposes required. More than 60 days into a national emergency, these mistakes cannot continue to be made – they will cost human lives." 

In some cases, confusion has been the major problem. The federal government has failed to provide adequate supplies for our state’s clinical and private labs—paralyzing our ability to expand testing capacity statewide. Originally, FEMA was the procurer of tests and the reagents needed to run them, then it became the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but during that shift the majority of labs in the state were refused help. The majority of labs conducting COVID-19 tests in Wisconsin are clinical or private labs experiencing severe shortages of reagents, yet this administration refuses to supply those reagents.

“FEMA has been very helpful in setting up testing facilities in several parts of Wisconsin which has been appreciated,” noted Congressman Pocan. “But this far into the pandemic, we need far quicker and more robust help in getting PPE, reagents and other supplies to Wisconsin and the rest of the nation. That’s the real emergency management we need from this White House.”

See the full letter, including side-by-side comparisons of supplies requested by the Governor and received from FEMA here.