PBS Frontline Documentary Is a Misleading Tale of Trump's COVID Response

Posted: Oct 10, 2020 12:01 AM
PBS Frontline Documentary Is a Misleading Tale of Trump's COVID Response

Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Trump rarely receives fair media coverage regarding his and his administration’s coronavirus response. The latest example is the new PBS Frontline documentary titled, “America’s Medical Supply Crisis,” which investigated the global medical supply chain and how the United States responded to acquiring critical life-saving medical equipment. The news report unfairly spotlights medical companies like Philips that worked day and night to produce ventilators during a critical time. 

The coronavirus has continued to spark anxiety and uncertainty in U.S. households, but no time was as uncertain as the first few months of the pandemic when we didn’t know how serious the disease was and had very few resources to treat it. Americans were unsure how to properly protect themselves and their families from a new pathogen that doctors, nurses, scientists, and other medical professionals didn’t know how to effectively combat. Our local and federal governments needed to put measures in place to secure the only supplies we knew were essential at the time, such as PPE and ventilators. 

On a federal level, President Trump and his administration officials got to work right away by partnering with the private sector to produce lifesaving supplies. Health technology companies, including Philips, stopped production of other products for their clients to solely focus on manufacturing top-of-the-line ventilators that intensive care units requested and desperately needed. The collective efforts of the private sector with President Trump’s administration made it so that every American who needed a ventilator got a ventilator. When it comes to helping those affected by the coronavirus, there is no action too great. 

It’s unfortunate the media and a select few Democrats in Congress are trying to undermine the hard work of those who heeded the call of the federal government to help combat the coronavirus. The claims of bad-faith negotiations between the Trump Administration and medical technology companies are blatantly false. These two parties worked together at the onset of the pandemic to protect, not harm the American people. 

The so-called evidence of malfeasance stems from the ventilators’ increased price per unit in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contracts. But the price of ventilators resulted from unique circumstances, including an increase in production amid a pandemic and an increase in the price of goods and parts along the supply chain. When the United States shut down for a month to slow the spread of coronavirus, it disrupted the standard operating supply-chain to produce life-saving devices. Shipping costs and frequent cargo shipping delays also played an important factor in pricing. It’s safe to say that most Americans experienced an increased lag time in deliveries and had trouble acquiring some of the essentials they needed. 

The media report also references a research and development contract that Philips agreed to with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is a part of HHS. The federal government contracts with thousands of private companies and no two contacts are identical. They are negotiated under differing circumstances to achieve various outcomes. Comparing one company's price-point from over five years ago to their price-point this year is inappropriate and misleading. 

President Trump prides himself on being an excellent businessman and an even better negotiator. It’s expected the media reports surrounding our president’s coronavirus response are unfair and try to knock his character, but what’s worse is pushing false stories about companies that stepped up to help Americans impacted by the virus. 

Todd Johnson is a North Carolina State Senator who also serves as a member of the North Carolina Board of Community Colleges.