Walorski: We Need Domestic Manufacturing of PPE Because We Can’t Trust China

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Walorski: We Need Domestic Manufacturing of PPE Because We Can’t Trust China

Applauds Hoosier Businesses Responding to Crisis by Producing Hand Sanitizer, Face Shields, Masks, and Other Supplies

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today at a hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis highlighted the need to strengthen domestic manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical medical supplies in light of China’s efforts to conceal the severity of the coronavirus outbreak and hoard the global supply of PPE.

“One clear lesson of this pandemic is the importance of an adequate, domestically-produced supply of PPE,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “It’s so critical to focus on domestic manufacturing because, quite simply, we can’t trust China. It’s becoming clear that China manipulated the basic economic laws of supply and demand by hoarding supplies and downplaying the true scale and danger of the virus, allowing it to spread even farther and wider.”

Walorski also applauded several businesses in Indiana’s 2nd District that have responded to the coronavirus crisis by producing hand sanitizer, face shields, masks, or other critical supplies. These businesses include Kem Krest in Elkhart, the Acid Products-Prairie Packaging Company facility in Kingsbury, GDC in Goshen, Worldcell Extrusions in Elkhart, and Top Stitch in Elkhart.

Earlier this week, Walorski joined fellow Republicans on the panel in sending a letter to Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) urging him to join their efforts to hold the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization responsible for their respective roles in exacerbating the coronavirus pandemic and to call the Chinese Ambassador to the United States and the Director-General of the WHO to testify under oath.

In April, Walorski introduced the bipartisan Medical Supplies for Pandemics Act of 2020, which would strengthen the Strategic National Stockpile to improve the federal response to future disasters and pandemics by enhancing medical supply chain elasticity, improving the domestic production of personal protective equipment, and partnering with industry to refresh and replenish existing stocks of medical supplies.

Video of Congresswoman Walorski speaking at today’s hearing can be found here, and her remarks as prepared are below.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this briefing.

“I first want to send my condolences to Ms. Shepherd and Mr. Colts. And to all the frontline workers, I just want to honor your sacrifice and for all you’re doing. To all the frontline workers across the country, we are a grateful nation for your heroic efforts to heal the sick, keep us safe, manufacture and deliver supplies, feed the country, and serve those in need.

“In my district in northern Indiana, I have been so inspired to see hardworking Hoosiers pitching in for our community. People are volunteering at local food banks and Meals on Wheels. Manufacturers donated their supply of masks and other PPE to local hospitals. Some even retooled their production to respond to the crisis:

  • Kem Krest, a chemical packaging company in Elkhart, and the Kingsbury facility for Acid Products-Prairie Packaging Company started producing hand sanitizer;
  • GDC, an auto parts company in Goshen, and Worldcell Extrusions, a thermoplastic foam manufacturer in Elkhart, both retooled to make face shields; and
  • Top Stitch, a commercial sewing company in Elkhart, started making medical gowns and surgical face masks.
    “The list goes on and on, but Hoosier businesses big and small answered the call from their community, state, and country to ramp up production of PPE.

“Obviously, a key question as states began to reopen was how businesses could get PPE products that are now in high demand. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb pioneered a first-of-its-kind Indiana Small Business PPE Marketplace, where eligible small businesses could apply for bundles of face masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer free of charge. This removes a potential barrier for employers trying to reopen responsibly, and it gives employees safety and peace of mind. The Marketplace fulfilled 10,000 orders in its first week alone. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the leadership and ingenuity the Hoosier state has shown through this crisis.

“One clear lesson of this pandemic is the importance of an adequate, domestically-produced supply of PPE. We can do this by leveraging robust public-private partnerships and through legislation like the bipartisan Medical Supplies for Pandemics Act, which I introduced with my friend Mrs. Dingell from Michigan. The bill would create incentives for domestic production of medical supplies, establish domestic reserves of PPE and diagnostic tests, and better manage the supply stocks of the Strategic National Stockpile for the next crisis.

“It’s so critical to focus on domestic manufacturing because, quite simply, we can’t trust China. A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security concluded China “intentionally concealed the severity” of this virus so that it could hoard PPE by blocking exports and buying it up through its state-owned enterprises. There are plenty of media reports backing this up. The New York Times reported in mid-March that factories in China were not authorized to export masks and all the while “bought up much of the rest of the world’s supply.” Even in February, Chinese entrepreneurs and aid groups “visited pharmacies in affluent countries and emerging markets alike, buying masks in bulk to send to China.” The Sydney Morning Herald similarly reported that the Greenland Group, a Chinese state-backed property giant, instructed its employees worldwide – even accountants, receptionists, and the HR team – to stop what they were doing and bulk buy as many medical supplies as they could in January and February.

“In the meantime, hospitals in my district and all over the country were faced with skyrocketing prices for PPE that can’t solely be attributed to price gouging. It’s becoming clear that China also manipulated the basic economic laws of supply and demand by hoarding supplies and downplaying the true scale and danger of the virus, allowing it to spread even farther and wider.

“I keep hearing this notion that holding China accountable is nothing more than a distraction. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Getting to the bottom of China’s role in PPE shortages is at the very core of ensuring adequate supplies to protect frontline workers.

“Last week, I posed the question: What’s going to differentiate this subcommittee from the dozens of other oversight bodies, aside from blatant, blind partisanship?

“We are on our second briefing now, and we have heard from 10 Democrat witnesses, and only one Republican witness. I hope we can do better. I hope we put a premium on substantive work. On holding China accountable. The American people deserve it. Frontline workers deserve it. I yield back.”

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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