“Our concern is we risk getting lost in the shuffle,” said Bill Johnson, executive director for the National Association for Police Organizations. “We’re grateful for the men and women in health care and recognize their need to be protected as well but we also need that same protection.”
First responder groups said they haven’t heard back on their request for a meeting with the president to discuss the issue. A White House spokesperson said state officials are supposed to be in charge of helping emergency workers get protective gear.
Leaders from the National Sheriffs Association, the International Fire Chiefs Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and six other groups, wrote directly to the president last week urging him to use the Defense Production Act to secure masks and gloves. They also made the plea in calls with White House staff and officials at the Justice and Homeland Security departments.
“We are still pushing the White House to enhance coordination not just with the states but with the local government, particularly with county hospitals and sheriffs,” said Matt Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties, which also signed the letter. “We need to really use the purchasing power and the logistical support of the federal government to help us.”
The lack of a response is testing the traditionally friendly relationship between Trump and law enforcement.
“We’re a little bit taken aback that nothing is seemingly being done to support the first responders,” said one law enforcement association executive who’s been involved with conversations with the White House. “We’re not getting the information that I think we deserve and that we’ve come to expect from the administration.”
The White House said state officials have the authority to delegate who receives equipment that is given to the states.
“Every level of government needs to deliver solutions and that is what we are doing in partnership,” said a White House spokesperson.
According to FEMA, the administration has already delivered 11.6 million N-95 respirators, 26 million surgical masks and 5.2 million face shields to states from the federal government’s reserve stockpile of medical supplies.
In addition, the Trump administration approved the first system for sterilizing specialized face masks worn by health workers — an emergency use authorization that could help ease the severe shortage of protective gear.
The system can decontaminate up to 80,000 medical masks per day, and will be deployed to coronavirus hot spots — such as New York and Washington state. The company, Battelle, plans to ship four more machines in the U.S. next week and 15 more in the coming weeks.