U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are seeking information about the shortage of medical supplies and testing equipment as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.
The senators from Virginia over the weekend sent a letter to President Donald Trump (R) inquiring about the supplies and equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile, or SNS.
The outbreak of the respiratory illness was first detected in Wuhan City, China in December 2019. Three months later the first presumptive positive case occurred in Virginia.
Loudoun County had 18 confirmed cases as of March 24.
The senators said health agencies are leading the response, but the shortage in supplies has become an issue for their constituents. "… our constituents working as health care providers and front line responders in hospitals, public health departments and throughout their communities report the health care system is woefully under-resourced, especially in our rural, underserved areas and minority communities that are often overlooked," they wrote. "This problem is most acute with shortages of supplies and equipment that are desperately needed to test for and treat COVID-19 patients.”
The senators have also asked the administration to confirm any relevant supply and equipment shortages within the SNS, to outline the strategy to close any such shortages and to clarify how the administration plans to use Defense Production Act powers to increase production of supplies and equipment needed for the pandemic response.
In Loudoun County, the health care community has spoken out about the shortage of supplies.
Loudoun Health Council Chairman Dr. John Farrell told the Loudoun Board of Supervisors earlier this month he was unable to test patients for the virus at his South Riding office because there were not enough virus test kits. Farrell also said six local practices were short of protective equipment, raising concerns for health care personnel.
The shortage of personal protective equipment for health care providers has been a widely reported and documented problem during the pandemic.
"… My concern is that if these patients are coming to our office, the health care personnel that work there will be affected, and we'll see a slow diminishment in the number of people who can actually care for them as they will need to be quarantined or kept on furlough,” Farrell said on March 11.
In an effort to address testing, regional leaders expressed interest in becoming one of the priority locations for federally supported coronavirus testing, according to a letter of support from Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large).
Loudoun County is a member of the National Capital Region along with Virginia counties Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William, the District of Columbia and several jurisdictions in Maryland.
In a letter addressed to the president, Randall said the region’s offices are positioned for such a task considering the mutual aid of public safety across jurisdictional borders.
Randall said, “... Our region also has the ability to facilitate large scale cooperative procurements to acquire resources and commodities as needed. These standing agreements and the cooperation of personnel at all levels allow ready and effective collaboration by the District of Columbia and the Maryland and Virginia local governments in the National Capital Region to assist in facilitating the establishment of COVID-19 testing sites.”
Around the commonwealth, drive-up testing areas have popped up, leading to more Virginians being tested for the virus. Private companies have also started to develop coronavirus test kits.
As of 5 p.m. March 24, Virginia had tested 4,470 people, 290 of which were positive.
See the list of questions sent by Sens. Kaine (D) and Warner (D) here.