Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer this week cosponsored bipartisan legislation to help increase access to respirators during the current coronavirus outbreak. The Health Care Workforce Protection Act, which was introduced by Senator Deb Fischer, would help ensure that manufacturers and distributors can produce Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved respirators, which are necessary for medical personnel responding to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

“This bipartisan legislation would remove potential barriers to the manufacture and distribution of CDC-approved respirators that can assist and help better protect state and local health professionals when treating patients who may have the coronavirus,” said Senator Hoeven. “This bill will help to ensure that medical personnel, who are working on the front lines to save lives and prevent this virus from spreading, are equipped with important personal protective equipment.”

“We need to set aside the partisan posturing and focus on addressing the coronavirus outbreak,” said Senator Cramer. “The Health Care Workforce Protection Act is a commonsense way to help equip our medical personnel with the tools they need to manage the outbreak and modernize this part of the system to ensure we are prepared in the future. The bill should be noncontroversial and I hope we see it pass quickly.”

Under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is allowed to issue a declaration granting limited liability protection to manufacturers and distributors of certain medical equipment during an outbreak or epidemic. However, the respirators overseen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at the CDC are not currently eligible for that protection. This legislation would amend current law to ensure that all NIOSH-certified respirators are eligible for the same limited federal liability protections as respirators approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

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