The fierce competition for crucial medical supplies is fueling confusion and suspicions between the states and federal government over conflicting priorities and drawing allegations of political favoritism by the Trump administration.

In Colorado, the tension boiled over when the state tried to secure ventilators for an expected spike in critically ill patients.

Colorado’s Democratic governor, Jared Polis, had made a direct plea to Vice President Mike Pence late last month for help in securing 10,000 ventilators and millions of masks and other protective equipment. When that request went unfulfilled, the state bought 500 ventilators from a private contractor.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency also needed the ventilators. The agency used its authority to jump to the front of the line, according to Colorado officials, and purchased the equipment.

“Before the ventilators could get shipped, FEMA superseded Colorado,” said Representative Diana DeGette, a Democrat representing the Denver area. “They took those 500 ventilators and said they were putting them in the national stockpile.”

Exasperated Governors
It’s a situation being played out around the country as governors complain of shortages, delays and confusing demands as they try to supply hospitals beset by critically ill patients.

A report by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform this week said the federal government had failed to distribute enough personal protective equipment and ventilators to meet states’ demands and that the strategic national stockpile of those supplies has been depleted.

With the federal supply system leaving shortfalls, governors are planning to band together to procure what their states need without competing against each other. A consortium has already been created in the Midwest, bringing together the buying power of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he’s considering going through the National Governors Association to create a wider group.

A spokesperson for FEMA said that the agency was not commandeering or re-routing supplies in the U.S. and would work with companies and states if a company cancels a state contract in favor of a federal one. But the system gives the agency preference when supplies are short.

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