The incoming administration, he said, is looking into ways to take over the distribution of testing supplies and medical equipment. They are also trying to create financial incentives and buy American guidelines to help the handful of domestic companies that P.P.E. establish, strengthen, he said. Mr Biden would not hesitate to adopt the Defense Production Act, said Dr. Bright, although he did not provide details of how it would be used.
Industry executives say the only way to guarantee the United States a reliable supply of quality masks and other medical devices is to recognize the sector as essential to national security, similar to the Pentagon's approach to companies producing fighter jet components and military manufacture, ensuring uniforms remain viable in peacetime.
This could mean that domestic businesses receive loans and subsidies, that state and national inventory must acquire American-made medical devices, and that hospital chains may have to source some of their supplies from domestic manufacturers.
"Masks are not a huge expense," said Mr. Bowen. "The whole damn market is less than $ 150 million."
Dan DeLay, who oversees procurement at CommonSpirit Health, the country's second largest nonprofit hospital chain, said the pandemic opened his eyes to the importance of home care. But it can be difficult to convince hospital managers to buy American-made protective equipment, which can cost 40 percent more than goods made overseas. "If we are serious about domestic manufacturing, we need to make serious investments that will be sustained in the long run if this happens again," he said.
Currently, the legions of exhausted healthcare workers are focused on managing the current crisis. Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said the months of bottlenecks left many members unnoticed and angry. Mrs. Turner, who is also an I.C.U. The nurse at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, remembered the days leading up to the pandemic when nurses were given an N95 mask for each patient. Nowadays she hears a lot about nurses being forced to use the masks up to ten times "or until they fall off their faces," she said.
Despite her optimism that a Biden government will be different, it is tired of the political leaders who mark medical workers as frontline warriors but do little to protect them, she said.
"The total disregard for our security was incomprehensible," she said. "They call us heroes, but we are not treated like soldiers in war because if we were, the federal government would make sure we have everything we need."