The Associated Press reported that the government began formal discussions with private industry representatives yesterday, the subject of those discussions centering around a five-year agreement that would ensure supplies of protective materials, medical equipment, medicine and vaccines.
According to the report, the agreement involves a provision of the Defense Production Act that President Trump invoked recently in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The provision enables competitive businesses and the government to discuss price and supply without flouting antitrust regulations, Federal Emergency Management Agency senior official Joel Doolin told the AP.
Over the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there have been numerous reports of equipment shortages and insufficient supplies as healthcare facilities attempt to combat the virus. A recent study found that there remains a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals, while last month it was reported that demand for kidney dialysis equipment and supplies jumped in hospitals in COVID-19 hot spots, leading to spot shortages.
Last month, the U.S. Dept. of Defense issued contracts totaling $133 million for the production of N95 respirator masks, while earlier this month, Congressional Democrats brought forward a bill that would give the government $75 billion to produce or purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices like ventilators.