BUREAUCRACY KILLS: America Could Import Countless More Face Masks if Federal Regulators Would Get Out of the Way: Markets are trying to meet spiking demand for face masks, but importers are stymied by the FDA and CDC.
The FDA and CDC should get out of the way so those ad hoc markets can operate legally.
“Due to the worldwide shortage of N95 masks, the operative question for FDA regulators is not whether a Chinese KN95 mask is preferable to an American N95 mask,” write Alec Stapp, director of technology policy at the Progressive Policy Institute, and Caleb Watney, a tech policy fellow with the free-market R Street Institute, in a forthcoming paper on the regulatory challenges facing face mask suppliers.
“The question is,” they continue, “whether it’s better than the CDC’s recommendation that healthcare professionals ‘might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort.'”
According to the CDC’s own data, it takes an average of 95 days to approve new certifications for face mask suppliers. That’s far too long, even at the best of times.
Stapp and Watney compare the FDA’s and CDC’s role in the ongoing face mask shortage to how the same federal agencies initially restricted the number of labs that could work to develop COVID-19 testing kits. The federal government should learn from that experience and act quickly to address the shortage of masks by freeing up markets and allowing additional imports, they argue.
Specifically, that means granting immediate exemptions for all domestic manufacturers to by-pass regulatory hurdles and allowing imports from any foreign producer that has a track record of selling products to “peer countries” like Japan and nations in Europe. Purchasers and hospitals should be trusted to conduct quality control testing and spot checks.
More than 575 distillers have volunteered to switch some of their production to hand sanitizer.
Congress has done its part to help distilleries. The $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus legislation waives the federal excise tax on drinkable distilled spirits — a hefty $13.50 per proof gallon — clearing the way for producers to turn their product into sanitizer.
But there’s still a hiccup. The new law requires distillers to follow FDA rules to get the waiver.
House lawmakers over the weekend signed onto a letter begging the FDA to make the necessary changes.
“I don’t think the federal government has an understanding of the amount of need,” Mr. Harris said.
Sanitizer is in short supply. While health officials say washing hands with soap and water is the best defense against coronavirus, those who don’t have ready access, such as emergency workers and police, rely on alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill the coronavirus.
“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”