ARLINGTON, VA. —The Consumer Brands Association (CBA) is calling for a more coordinated effort to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) across the critical infrastructure supply chain during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged critical infrastructure workers to wear face masks and take on-site temperature checks, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and various state agencies have confiscated thousands of pieces of PPE intended for essential employees. The conflicting actions have caused confusion among manufacturers and may be putting line workers at risk, the agency said.
Examples of conflicting actions include thermometers being confiscated at commercial ports, cloth face masks to protect line workers being seized before they arrive at manufacturing facilities and state governments commandeering PPE meant for industrial use.
“Our industry’s employees have been deemed an essential part of the effort to keep our country running, yet inconsistent behavior within the federal government is preventing manufacturers from accessing necessary PPE,” said Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive officer of the CBA. “All essential workers — in health care and beyond — must have access to the equipment they need to serve public interests safely during this crisis.”
The CBA outlined several steps the federal government could take to protect workers’ access to PPE in a letter to President Donald Trump last week. Proposed actions include creating a White House Office of Supply Chain to promote cross-agency collaboration and ensuring priority access to COVID-19 testing for essential workers.
“Unless steps are taken to prioritize acquisition and dissemination of personal protective and sanitizing equipment across all critical infrastructure, these essential manufacturers and other industries could see operations come to a halt due to workforce shortages, employee transmission and operational shutdowns,” Freeman said.