Petition Demands Emergency Action to Supply PPE

Andrea Sears | Public News Service
PPE shortages have forced some health-care workers to recycle single-use respirators. Photo Credit: Jonathan Borba / Pexels

NEW YORK — Unions and environmental groups are demanding the Trump administration use the Defense Production Act to get personal protective equipment to essential workers.

An emergency rule-making petition has been sent to the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security. It requests a nationwide inventory, increased production and prioritized distribution of respirators, gloves, gowns and other equipment needed to protect workers from COVID-19.

Micki Siegel de Hernandez is deputy director of health and safety with Communications Workers of America, which represents health-care workers. She said six months into the pandemic, there still are critical shortages.

“This is well past when the DPA should have been used, making sure companies are able to produce the equipment needed and get it to the right places,” de Hernandez said.

The petition was filed on behalf of 30 labor and environmental organizations nationwide.

While some areas of the country have drastically reduced their rates of new infections, de Hernandez pointed out, the numbers continue rise in other areas – especially in the South, the Midwest and in California.

“The pandemic is not over; we’re not anywhere close to having it under control,” she said. “And not only in health care are these supplies needed, but in other workplaces as well.”

She said as long as the pandemic is spreading anywhere in the country, no one is safe from infection.

Even in areas where the number of COVID patients has declined dramatically, de Hernandez noted the PPE supply for health care workers hasn’t been restored to normal standards.

“The national government has still not taken the steps to make sure that we are protecting people as they continue to do their jobs,” she said. “And without that happening, we’re just going to see more and more workers sick, and more and more workers die.”

The petition, filed on August 11, requests the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security take the requested actions within 15 days.

Disclosure: Communications Workers of America contributes to our fund for reporting on Human Rights/Racial Justice, Livable Wages/Working Families.