Press Release: Medical Gas Manufacturing and Distribution Are “Essential” to Respond to COVID-19
Federal, State and Local Governments Should Ensure that Medical Gas Manufacturing and Distribution Continues to Patients Without Interruption
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 20, 2020
CHANTILLY, Virginia – Medical gases have been used to treat medical conditions for over 100 years. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has made the need for medical gases even more acute today. Over one million patients are treated with medical gases, such as oxygen, every day under prescription from a health care provider. Medical gases are administered in the emergency medical setting, the hospital setting, the outpatient setting, and in the home. Due to the importance of medical gases to treating COVID-19, medical gas manufacturing and distribution have been deemed “essential” by the federal government.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 64 percent of the critically ill patients treated for COVID-19 have received high-flow oxygen therapy and up to 71 percent of patients received mechanical ventilation. One of the top recommendations that the CDC gives to families and caregivers of populations at risk to COVID-19 is to monitor medical supplies, such as oxygen, and create a back-up plan to ensure you have enough supply.
DHS Designates Medical Gas Manufacturing and Distribution as “Essential”
On March 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued guidance on “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The DHS list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” is intended “to help state and local officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.”
In its guidance to state and local officials, DHS defines the following workers as “essential”: “Manufacturers, technicians, logistics and warehouse operators, and distributors of … medical gases.” Therefore, any state or local quarantine or shelter in place declarations should include medical gas workers as “essential” to the response to COVID-19.
DOT Emergency Declaration for Transportation of Essential Medical Supplies
On March 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an Emergency Declaration that provided regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations engaged in direct assistance in transportation of essential supplies, equipment, and persons related to the COVID-19 outbreaks in the 50 states.
In its Emergency Declaration, DOT identifies as “essential” the transportation of “medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.” Therefore, any state or local quarantine or shelter in place declarations should include medical gas transportation “essential” to the treatment of COVID-19.
Medical Gas Manufacturing and Distribution Process
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), medical gases are manufactured at over 4,000 manufacturing locations across the United States, the vast majority of which are small businesses. The manufacturing of medical gases is distributed across all 50 states to ensure that patients have access to critical medical gases in emergency settings, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and in their homes. Medical gases are provided to patients through high pressure cylinders and bulk containers and as a result, the manufacturing process occurs as close to the end use as possible. Therefore, state and local officials should ensure that the medical gas manufacturing and distribution model continues without interruption to safely and efficiently reach patients in the response to COVID-19.
The Compressed Gas Association (CGA) is the safety standard setting body of the medical, industrial, and food gases industry. CGA’s mission is to promote ever-improving safe, secure, and environmentally responsible manufacture, transportation, storage, transfilling, and disposal of industrial, medical, and food gases and their containers. More than 130 companies worldwide are members of the Compressed Gas Association, from multinational corporations to family-owned businesses. These companies represent all facets of the industry: manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and transporters of gases, cryogenic liquids, and related products. Our sphere of influence encompasses industrial, medical, food, and specialty gases in compressed or liquefied form, as well as a range of gas handling equipment. Compressed gases provide the invisible ingredient in millions of products used in everyday life. Together, our members supply products to industries that account for nearly 30% of the U.S. gross domestic product. In fact, every job our industry creates generates 2.3 additional jobs elsewhere in the economy. For more than 100 years, the Compressed Gas Association has been dedicated to the development and promotion of safety standards and safe practices for our industry. We use a committee system comprised of member volunteers to develop technical specifications, safety standards, and training and educational materials. We also work with government agencies to help formulate and promote compliance with responsible regulations and standards. Additionally, CGA works in close cooperation with other industrial gas associations around the world to harmonize standards and advance safety for the industry worldwide.
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