Doug Jones: Make Returning Health Care Manufacturing to U.S. a Priority — Revive Closed Mills to Produce Masks, Gowns

Early indications are that once the coronavirus pandemic is resolved to being at least somewhat manageable, policymakers in Washington, D.C. will have to reevaluate aspects of manufacturing and the reliance on China, especially regarding health care. In an interview with Huntsville, AL radio’s WVNN on Thursday, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) argued for the repatriation of health care manufacturing in the United States, noting it will be vital to replenish and perhaps increase stockpiles.

“I dang sure think we need to do it with regard to our health care system,” Jones said. “For sure, we need to do that. We let that get away from us. It is not just protective equipment, and it’s not just China, by the way. We have the reagents that are used for testing. So many of the reagents that we’re having to ship in from Germany, Italy, Europe, different places. I think we’ve got to make a concerted effort right now to try at least to get our health care system in place so we can replenish our stockpile, double the amount of the stockpile if we need to and try to do things here so that we are not as dependent on health care as much as we are.”

The Alabama Democrat suggested revisiting textile mills in his home state, some of which that had been shuttered because of the country’s move to embrace globalization.

“I think that that’s going to be really important going forward, and there’s opportunities,” he continued. “We’ve got textile mills in Alabama that have been closed that could be reopened to make masks and to make gowns. We’ve got other manufacturing facilities that might could be used for ventilators. There’s a lot of things I think we can do and should do to give those incentives, particularly in the health care industry, to try to make sure when we get out of this, we start planning for the future and the next one. We can’t let our guard down, and we need to learn from the mistakes that we’ve made in this and try to keep as much stuff here as we can. And that’s not to say we don’t help our neighbors and supply the world a little bit if we have got that. But we’ve got to get this here because one of the problems we’ve seen from our supply chain is trying to get things from overseas.”

Jones argued health care products should be given priority with any initiative to bolster domestic manufacturing in the pursuit of decreasing reliance on other nations, including China, as a supply chain.

“I think people have always wanted to do that, but I think it is particularly important with regard to our health care industry,” Jones said. “I really believe that it is most important and most significant there. It’s OK to export cars that we make in Alabama to China. It’s OK to import cars made in Germany to the United States. What we really need to be thinking is in a crisis, in an emergency, what is it that we need? How can we do this? What can we ramp up if we’re in short supply? And the other piece of this for health care is not just those issues that deal with the COVID-19 crisis – but we’re seeing a shortage of drug supply, so many of the ingredients and drugs are made elsewhere. All of this comes into play. I think if we focus first on health care, that is going to be the biggest thing.”

“Now, I will tell you that I don’t think that this means we’ve simply got to bring every industry back to the United States of America,” he added. “I don’t think that that’s feasible, number one. I think economically, it would hurt us, number two. But for the health care industry and for future pandemics that deal with the health of America, I think we’re going to have to take another look at that.”

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor

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