|WASHINGTON – Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) – Oversight and Management Accountability Subcommittee ranking member – today delivered an opening statement at a joint subcommittee hearing entitled, “Reviewing Federal and State Pandemic Supply Preparedness and Response.”
Crenshaw remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Chairwoman Torres Small and Chairman Payne. I am pleased to participate in this virtual joint hearing today, but I continue to have concerns about hearings not being held in person. A great deal is lost in translation when we are not all together in one room discussing these important issues.
Today’s hearing is to examine matters related to the management and distribution of medical supplies in response to the pandemic. This topic is of the utmost importance to our country and to each of our states. My home state of Texas recently experienced an uptick in reported cases – as did 33 other states – others are holding steady, and only 3 states saw declines in the number of cases last week.
As we see cases increasing, we must ensure that our health care providers and first responders have the equipment they need to provide treatment while protecting themselves and slowing the spread of the virus.
The size and scope of this response effort is unprecedented. We have not experienced anything like this in the history of our country. Some experts have compared this to the outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1918. But today, we are a much more mobile society, and our economy and supply chain are much more interconnected with the world. While we are using many of the same tools, such as social distancing and quarantining, many of the supplies that doctors and hospitals use today to combat the virus are not manufactured in the United States.
Because many of our medical supplies and pharmaceuticals are not produced domestically, we are competing with the rest of the world for the supplies we need to treat our people. Countries like China have a stranglehold on our medical supply chain, and we must take steps to regain control of the supply chain from the communist regime. This is especially important during a global pandemic.
To make matters worse, there is evidence that China deliberately misled the world about the extent of the outbreak in that country while hoarding critical medical supplies and decreasing exports to the rest of the world. Had we known the true number of individuals infected in China, we would have quickly realized that our stockpile of ventilators, N95 respirators, and other medical supplies were not going to be enough to meet the demand and acted earlier to meet the projected need.
While we may have lost critical time at the beginning of this pandemic, once we began to understand the potential scope of the outbreak in this country, the Administration took steps to increase the availability of necessary supplies.
FEMA was put in charge of distribution of medical supplies rather than HHS because of its logistical capabilities and relationship with State and local emergency managers. FEMA established Project Airbridge to find medical supplies and quickly get them to where they were needed.
The President used the Defense Production Act to encourage U.S. companies to join the fight against COVID-19 by altering their operations to provide for critical medical supplies. Ford, GE and General Motors stepped up to assist with manufacturing ventilators.
3M doubled its production of N95 masks to 100 million a month. Bauer, a U.S. company that makes hockey equipment, stopped making helmet visors and started producing face shields for medical professionals. As wearing a cloth face covering became a way of life for millions of Americans, My Pillow began producing masks to meet the demands of American’s need.
After it became apparent that hand sanitizer was in short supply, many distillers, like Whitmeyer’s in my district in Houston, converted from making alcohol for consumption to producing hand sanitizer.
American companies are not just meeting PPE and medical equipment demand, but looking forward. In a month and a half Houston’s Medistar founder Monzer Hourani took his idea for a filter that can kill COVID from an idea to a prototype to a tested and proven concept that kills 99.8% of the virus.
These are just a few examples of U.S. companies stepping up to support our country during this crisis. Many other companies have donated portions of their profits to aid in the fight against COVID.
As we continue to learn more about this virus and the best ways to prevent its spread, we must continue to build our stockpile of medical supplies and ensure that our health care providers and first responders have the tools they need. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on the best ways to do that.
I yield back.