Northeast consortium of states announces plan to buy PPE together — now and in the future

Gov. Phil Murphy joined with the six other governors in the Northeast consortium Sunday to announce a joint multistate agreement to develop a regional supply chain for personal protective equipment, other medical equipment and testing.

While the states will continue to partner with the federal government during this global and national public health crisis, they will also work together to identify the entire region’s needs for these products, aggregate demand among the states, reduce costs and stabilize the supply chain. The states will also coordinate policies regarding the inventory of PPE each state’s health care infrastructure should have to be prepared for a possible second wave of COVID-19.

The states also will coordinate policies on what supplies local governments should have on hand for their first responders, and if any requirements regarding PPE for the not-for-profit and private sector are needed. The states will then seek to identify suppliers within the country, region or state who can scale to meet the demand of the entire region over the next three months. The goal of this approach is to decrease the potential for disruptions in the supply chain for PPE and medical equipment, including sanitizer and ventilators, and testing, and promote regional economic development.

Murphy said it makes sense on a number of levels.

“Our states should never be in a position where we are actively competing against each other for life-saving resources,” he said. “By working together across the region, we can obtain critical supplies as we begin the process to restart our economies, while also saving money for our taxpayers. This concept is at the heart of the regional approach we’ve established.”

New Jersey is joined by New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the group.

Murphy said the Northeast states have been left to beg, borrow and barter for supplies since the pandemic came to the region. Now, they can seek supplies together, he said. And Murphy hopes they won’t have to look far.

“Not only should we not have to be scouring the world for this, it ought to be made in the USA,” he said. “Better yet, made in our states. That’s something that I think we all want to strive for. We have to figure out a way to make this stuff here.”

(See column here.)

Murphy made it clear that the agreement does not go against needs from the federal government.

Working together, however, should bring a better price.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont feels that way.

“I would love to have some of that New York purchasing power,” he said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the agreement will put the region in better position for future needs — whether it’s a second surge of COVID-19 or the next medical crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created a mad scramble for medical equipment across the entire nation — there was competition among states, private entities and the federal government and we were driving up the prices of these critical resources,” he said. “As a state and as a nation, we can’t go through that again.”

Other notes from the weekend:

The numbers

Murphy reported the state had 3,144 more COVID-19 cases on Sunday after reporting 2,912 on Saturday, for a new state total of 126,744. That means there were more than 6,000 cases over the weekend — an incredible statistic considering the state’s actions are proving to be considerably lowering the outbreak.

Murphy also reported 137 fatalities on Sunday after announcing 205 on Saturday. The state’s death toll now stands at 7,871.

Hospital update — as of 10 p.m. Saturday night:

  • In hospitals: 5,317;
  • In intensive/critical care: 1,623;
  • On ventilators: 1,198.

Murphy was particularly happy with the hospital numbers, which dropped by more than 1,000 in one week.

“All of the important metrics in our hospitals continue to show positive trends,” he said. “We need to keep seeing these lines moving in these directions before we can put New Jersey on the road back, and before we are able to responsibly restart our economy.”

Executive order

Murphy announced Saturday he signed an executive order extending a number of statutory deadlines required under environmental laws that will be difficult to meet due to the pandemic.

“Under normal circumstances, the Department of Environmental Protection is required to act on construction permits, including development in coastal areas and wetlands, within 90 days, or the permit is deemed approved,” he said. “This order will ensure that DEP has the necessary time to get the information it needs to make fully informed decisions.”

Final word

Murphy on the state’s hospitals getting $1.7 billion in federal assistance (see story here):

“Ensuring the health of our health care systems is critical to us getting ourselves on the road back. When we look at metrics we need to fall in line for us to restart and recover, the health of our hospitals is one of the most vital.”

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: