The federal government outbid states on critical coronavirus supplies after Trump told governors to get their own medical equipment

insider@insider.com (Eliza Relman)
President Donald Trump speaks during press briefing with the coronavirus task force, at the White House, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Washington. Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams at right.

Evan Vucci/AP

  • The federal government is outbidding states on orders of critical medical equipment necessary to aid patients and protect medical professionals from coronavirus. 
  • States are losing out on crucial equipment orders even though President Donald Trump directed them to get their own supplies, rather than relying on help from the federal government. 
  • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told Trump during a conference call on Thursday that the federal government had outbid his state on three major orders of medical equipment. 
  • This comes as the US is facing a widespread shortage of equipment, including basic disinfecting products, surgical masks, and life-saving machines like ventilators. 
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The federal government is outbidding states on orders of critical medical equipment necessary to aid patients and protect medical professionals from coronavirus, even though President Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted states get their own supplies. 

During a conference call with governors on Thursday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told Trump his state was denied three major orders of equipment because the federal government had outbid him.  

"I'm not quite sure what to do with this, so I'm just going to throw it out there for you," Baker told Trump on the call, according to Bloomberg News. "We took very seriously the push ... that we should not just rely on the stockpile, that we should go out there and buy stuff and put in orders and try to create pressure on manufacturers and distributors, and I gotta tell you that on three big orders, we lost to the feds." 

Baker, a moderate Republican, added, "I've got a feeling that if someone has the chance to sell to you and to sell to me, I am going to lose on every one of those."

Trump chuckled at that and then said the federal government probably offered the manufacturers a better price. 

"Price is always a component of that also," Trump said. "And maybe that's why you lost to the feds, okay, I'll tell you, that's probably why."

Later on the call, after the New Mexico government made a similar complaint, Trump said he would tell FEMA to ensure state orders aren't turned down over a conflict with his administration. 

This comes as the US is facing a widespread shortage of crucial personal protective gear for medical professionals and other key medical equipment. Doctors and nurses around the country have been forced to wear single-use face masks repeatedly because their hospitals and clinics are running out of gear

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that the city — which is at the center of the worst coronavirus outbreak in the country — is two to three weeks away from running out of crucial medical supplies. 

Earlier this week, the president directed state governments to purchase their own medical equipment and protective gear. 

"Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves," Trump told governors during a phone call, The New York Times reported. "We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Points of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself."

And on Thursday, Trump insisted that it's not the federal government's job to procure necessary equipment for states. 

"The federal government's not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping," Trump said during a White House briefing. "You know, we're not a shipping clerk."

 

 

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