With cases of COVID-19 surging and medical supplies rapidly dwindling, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is calling on federal officials to scale up aid efforts for the state, saying, "It feels like we entered this war, and it is a war, with less ammunition than we needed."
New Jersey has reported more than 25,500 cases of the coronavirus and more than 500 deaths — second only to New York. The crush of cases pushed Murphy to take dramatic action on Thursday by granting the state police the authority to commandeer medical supplies and equipment from private companies.
"We can't take any chances," Murphy said Friday in an interview with NPR. "We've got some out of the federal stockpile in terms of ventilators and personal protective equipment, but not nearly as much as we need."
Murphy, a Democrat, said he has asked for 2,500 ventilators from the government's emergency stockpile, and has so far received 850. At least 15, he said, "were not at the level they needed to be, so we're going to continue to need to rely on the federal stockpile."
His calls for federal assistance echo those of other governors across the nation. On Thursday, however, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner appeared to tamp down expectations for how much aid states can expect to get from the stockpile in remarks that have quickly drawn criticism.
"The notion of the federal stockpile is that it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use," Kushner said. "When you have governors saying that the federal government hasn't given them what they need," he continued, "I would encourage you to ask them, have you looked within your state to make sure you haven't been able to find the resources?"
Asked to respond, Murphy said New Jersey is out of reliable sources for ventilators. "We'll continue to try to find other sources as we scour the globe for that, but we need the feds to step up and continue to step up," he said.
In addition to ventilators, Murphy said the state has put out a call for medical volunteers, and is running low on hospital beds and personal protective equipment for health care workers.
The governor said more than 7,000 people have since volunteered to help address the need for manpower, but securing additional protective equipment may take longer. At a White House briefing on Wednesday, President Trump acknowledged the stockpile is nearly depleted of such gear.
"It certainly does however feel like we're going to have to do a massive national postmortem on this," Murphy said about the federal response. He said the state is grateful for the assistance it's received from the government, but "we need a lot more and that continues to be the case."
You can listen to Phil Murphy's full interview with Morning Edition host Rachel Martin here.