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Florida calls for more medical supplies in preparation for COVID-19 patient surge

Posted at 11:41 PM, Mar 18, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As cases of COVID-19 grow, the state is ramping up efforts to prevent a shortage of medical supplies. Florida Emergency Management officials now requesting millions of items from the federal government.

On the list; 5,000 ventilators, 5,000 hospital beds, a half-million gloves, gowns and swab collection kits. Plus, 2 million face masks.

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The call for supplies is especially loud at facilities caring for the state’s most at-risk population, nursing homes.

“We need more of everything,” said Kristen Knapp, with the Florida Health Care Association. “Honestly, we need more of everything.”

Knapp says the places are especially in need of more personal protective equipment, like gowns and masks. She says the items will help keep the staff from spreading the virus or becoming infected themselves.

“We’re running short because we are— there’s a shortage nationwide,” Knapp said.

The demand has now prompted the president to take action. Trump saying Wednesday he’d be invoking the Defense Production Act.

“Just in case we need it,” Trump said. “I think you all know what it is. It can do a lot of good things if we need it.”

The move gives the president more authority to boost private-sector production and distribution of the medical supplies in high demand.

“Obviously, you’re talking about converting factories that are making stuff people aren’t buying to making stuff of the essential needs,” State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz.

Moskowitz hailed the decision. He said Florida is in competition for supplies with each state and continent, with the exception of Antarctica.

The director hesitated to say he felt confident in the state’s current level of preparation. He considered COVID-19 a moving target.

“The minute I tell you I feel confident, I get 200 more cases tomorrow,” Moskowitz said. “Listen, this is a virus, it’s unpredictable.”

Besides medical supplies, Moskowitz said he’s also looking for more space for sick people. Even going so far as to check out Navy hospital ships at Florida ports for the room, if needed.