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Let the “free market” sort it out

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BY LAURA CAVANAUGH/FILMMAGIC/GETTY IMAGES

Again, the fact that Republicans can’t set aside their reverence for regulated-as-little-as-possible corporations even when their political survival is at stake is going to get a lot of people killed:

President Trump on Saturday sought to assure an anxious American public that help was on the way to overwhelmed hospitals, and that private companies had agreed to provide desperately needed medical supplies to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus.

But Mr. Trump resisted appeals from state and local officials and hospital administrators for more aggressive action, saying he would not compel companies to make face masks and other gear to protect front-line health workers from the virus.

Speaking at a White House briefing with Mr. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence said the federal government had placed orders for “hundreds of millions” of the N-95 face masks that can shield medical workers from the virus. Mr. Trump said the clothing company Hanes was among those that had been enlisted to start churning out masks, although the company said they would not be the N-95 masks that are most effective in protecting medical workers.

Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Pence would say when the masks would be ready. And it is unclear whether enough new masks and other protective gear will be available before health care facilities start getting overwhelmed by a flood of infected patients. More than 21,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States, and that number is expected to soar in coming weeks.

So, to summarize, the theoretical testing capacity of state and local governments is finally increasing, but it’s being limited by a lack of N-95 masks to protect medical personnel. Trump could simply order companies like Hanes to make them. Instead, Hanes is making masks that do not protect medical personnel, and Trump (who almost certainly thinks a mask is mask and doesn’t grasp the critical importance of producing more N-95s in particular) is just declaring victory anyway. Just great.

Also, don’t elect Republicans at the state level either:

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