California, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia broke records for daily new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to the New York Times. That — among other things — had the mayor of America’s second-largest city worried about a new COVID-related crisis.
“We’re going to see across this nation a testing emergency,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in response to a question from Deadline. He predicted a national squeeze on lab personnel, testing materials and contact tracing.
“We need national leadership, so this isn’t a dog-eat-dog [process],” said Garcetti. If states are pitted against each other again, as they were in the scramble for PPE when the virus first took hold, then distribution becomes a zero-sum equation, he indicated. “If Florida does well, California suffers,” and so on.
CNN reported on Wednesday that Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego also says her city is facing “a huge testing shortage.”
“People have been in line for eight hours in a hot car while they ache, waiting for a test,” she told CNN. “We are five months in in the United States of America. People who want a test should not have to wait that long.”
Mayor Gallego said she requested assistance from the federal government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but that request was denied.
Garcetti also called for federal help: “Congress and the president need to step up and pass another aid bill” including COVID assistance to local governments and, he said, direct payments to Americans.
The New York Times reported Wednesday what it called “a dire shortage” of PPE, including respirator masks, protective gowns and gloves.
But California is awash in PPE, according to its Governor, Gavin Newsom. So flush, in fact, that the state is supplying its neighbors.
One thing the California’s largest city continues to need, however, is more testing capacity.
“Testing remains a critical tool,” Garcetti said.
“We hear very single day that there are not enough tests,” said the mayor, before announcing that the city and county had performed a record 20,000 tests on Wednesday. But in a city of 4 million people, Garcetti admitted, that’s still not enough. “We need more help with testing.”
Garcetti indicated that with so much of the country experiencing escalating case numbers, it is clogging up supply chains. While Los Angeles has seen frequent testing delays of 1-2 days, he said, other parts of the country are backlogged weeks, making it hard for officials to make “data-driven” decisions to deal with the crisis.
“Without a major boost in testing,” continued Garcetti, “there’s no way we can safely reopen our economy or to safely reopen schools.”
Sean Penn, whose CORE organization has stepped up its assistance at Dodger Stadium, L.A.’s largest testing site, called on Tuesday for President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act and direct U.S. manufacturers to help fill the supply chain. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, for his part, indicated this week that he would invoke the law, if elected.
Dr. Susan R. Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, called the lack of planning “incredibly frustrating.” Her organization wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging the administration to use the Defense Production Act. “We need a national coordinated strategy,” she said.