Maine’s congressional delegation is calling on the federal government to provide more personal protective equipment for the state’s medical professionals as coronavirus diagnoses rise and a shortage looms.

U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden said in a statement that the state needs help as positive tests for the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, rose to 70 on Saturday. The first positive test for the virus came just over a week ago.

“Over the past several days, the number of COVID-19 cases in Maine has rapidly increased and demand is expected to soon outstrip the available supply” of personal protective equipment, or PPE, the lawmakers said Friday in a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

The lawmakers are asking for surgical masks, gowns and respirators to help treat COVID-19 patients safely.

Maine has already received a “limited” amount of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, a crisis reserve of medication and equipment maintained by the federal government, but it won’t be enough, the lawmakers say.

Gov.Janet Mills this past week also asked Azar and Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the White House’s coronavirus response, for more supplies. The delegation’s letter is in support of her request.

“While Maine is continuing to pursue other sources of PPE, it has exhausted the options within its control and is relying on the federal government to meet this urgent need,” the delegation said in the statement Saturday.

President Trump this past week said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, a war mobilization law dating to 1950, to compel manufacturers to produce more medical equipment. He has also encouraged state governors to seek alternative sources of supplies.

Among other efforts to quickly provide more supplies, Maine officials are allowing pharmacies to start compounding their own hand sanitizer.


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