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Kushner's Stockpile Comments Cause a Fuss

HHS tweaks wording on website after he talks about role of federal supply in helping states
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2020 1:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – On Thursday, Jared Kushner made his first appearance at a White House coronavirus briefing and discussed state requests for medical gear from the government's stockpile, formally known as the Strategic National Stockpile. He suggested governors were asking for federal gear without knowing the status of their own supplies, reports USA Today. His comments about the role of the stockpile in particular were generating controversy:

  • The quote: “And the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use," said Kushner, per Politico. "So we're encouraging the states to make sure that they're assessing the needs, they're getting the data from their local situations, and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we've given them."
  • The problem: The Department of Health and Human Services' own website didn't seem to agree, reports the Washington Post. The stockpile "is the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out," it explained. Then it added: "When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency."

  • The alteration: On Friday, the wording on the website changed, which was pointed out by journalist Laura Bassett. The new text: “The Strategic National Stockpile’s role is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies,” it says. “Many states have products stockpiled, as well. The supplies, medicines, and devices for life-saving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of these materials may not be immediately available.” It no longer says the stockpile "contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously."
  • Explanation: The change in wording was in the works before Kushner's comments, says an HHS spokesperson. "This is language we have been using in our messaging for weeks now," says Katherine McKeogh. Staffers "first began working to update the text a week ago to more clearly explain to state and local agencies and members of the public the role of the (stockpile)."
Kushner has recently assumed a big role in leading the White House coronavirus response. (Read more Jared Kushner stories.)

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