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Adequate national medical stockpile logical way to go

As the coronavirus epidemic hit full stride, Americans learned to our dismay that the nation lacked adequate supplies of COVID-19 test kits, personal protective gear such as face masks, medical ventilators and other necessities for dealing with a massive health care emergency.

To their enormous credit, federal and state officials scrambled to remedy the situation. Companies such as car makers switched assembly lines to manufacture ventilators. Alcoholic beverage companies churned out hand sanitizer. A well-known pillow company began making masks.

It appears that, with the notable exception of virus test kits, we now have all we need.

But there will be a next time. Will we be ready then?

A consortium of states, led by New York, has set in motion a plan to set up their own stockpile of medical supplies and equipment. In addition to the Empire State, participants include Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Good for officials here and in these other states for desiring to be ready — but this is not enough.

What is needed is an adequate national stockpile augmented by a transportation plan capable of getting supplies and equipment where it is needed, with the utmost urgency.

COVID-19 hit New York hardest. It is understandable that leaders would be worried about another viral attack. But what if the next one is centered in, say, Los Angeles, Atlanta or Denver?

A national anti-disease arsenal — prepared for a variety of assaults, not just something similar to COVID-19 — is the best safeguard for all Americans. A national stockpile — perhaps with regular, conscientious congressional oversight — is the logical way to go.

Toward that end, President Trump recently announced a new effort with a dual purpose.

The effort is intended to build a 90-day supply of masks, gowns, ventilators and other essential pandemic-fighting medical equipment. It also is intended to expand U.S. manufacturing of such supplies to diminish reliance on foreign companies.

Rebuilding a national stockpile and setting up a system of regular oversight should be a priority of the federal government and merits bipartisan support. It’s in the best interest of all Americans.

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