New Jersey and six other states in the region are joining together to develop a regional supply chain for personal protective equipment, other medical equipment and testing.

The consortium will include New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Those seven states are already cooperating on developing an economic reopening plan.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the agreement is “a brilliant extension of our ongoing cooperation.” He said states will continue to work with the federal government to secure equipment but that for now, New Jersey continues to beg, borrow and barter for needed supplies.

“We’re still doing it. Someone said to me a couple days ago that gowns have become the new ventilators,” Murphy said. “And so we’re still out there. And so the notion of coordinating together as a region makes an enormous amount of sense. So sign me up and sign New Jersey up.”

Murphy said last week that the state has distributed more than 21 million pieces of personal protective equipment to frontline essential workers. He said on April 25 that the state had spent “several hundred million dollars at this point” on PPE and that three-fourths of that will be reimbursed by FEMA.

The announcement was made at the daily coronavirus briefing held by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said that combined the seven states buy about $5 billion of equipment and supplies.

“As a nation, we can’t go through this again. There was competition among states. There was competition among private entities to get this equipment. The federal government was trying to buy it,” Cuomo said. “I’m bidding on behalf of New York, we’re bidding against other states. Texas, California, other states around the country are trying to buy the same masks from the same vendor. We literally wound up bidding up the price. It was totally inefficient and ineffective.”

Cuomo said the regional approach will save taxpayers money and help make it easier to get equipment from vendors who sometimes choose to sell to the federal government or other countries because they are larger.

“So this consortium I think will help us get the equipment and get it at a better price,” Cuomo said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said the regional supply chain will go beyond equipment.

“We really need to work together to build the capacity to test, or we’re not going to be able to give our citizens the confidence they need to go back to work,” Wolf said. “They’re not going to have the confidence we need them to have to go back to school or to back to the store or to go back to worship.”

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