Vice President Mike Pence touts manufacturing of ventilators in visit to GE Healthcare facility in Madison

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Vice President Mike Pence visits a GE Healthcare manufacturing facility in Madison to highlight the production of ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Vice President Mike Pence visited a GE Healthcare manufacturing facility in Madison Tuesday to tout the production of ventilators and offer encouragement that the United States is robustly fighting the coronavirus pandemic.  

“We are one team confronting the coronavirus epidemic, one nation working together,” Pence said during a discussion with workers and management.

He lauded the partnership between union machinists and GE Healthcare and said they “have saved lives all across America.”

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There are nearly 450 workers from Local 1406 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

The GE facility has gone to three shifts, operating 24/7 to boost production of ventilators.

“The true heroes of this pandemic are people like our IAM Local 1406 members in Madison,” IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. said. “Day in and day out, they are doing the work that is saving lives and getting us closer to the end of this crisis.”

Pence said the United States will reach a target of manufacturing 110,000 ventilators in 100 days.

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“Because of all of your efforts and because of what the American people have done (in mitigation and social distancing), no American who has required a ventilator has been denied a ventilator,” the vice president said.

Pence toured the facility and got an up-close look at the latest equipment.

“We are super excited to be ramping up. It’s a sense of mission that we’re delivering this to Madison, Wisconsin, and caregivers and hospitals throughout the United States,” said Jay Hanrahan, director of product management, health care anesthesia and respiratory care for the company.

Pence said: “As I walked through the plant, frankly I felt more than a little emotion.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, said the visit used Wisconsin as a “backdrop.” Biden criticized the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, claiming it was “responsible for one of the most significant failures of governance of any administration in modern history.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat who represents Madison and the surrounding area, called the federal response to the pandemic “pathetic.”  

“Where the hell is the federal government response for places like Wisconsin? If we can’t test, we can’t open up. Where the hell are the supplies for the state of Wisconsin and the people who live here?” Pocan said, referring to testing kits and related supplies such as testing swabs and reagents that the state has requested from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The vice president said the Trump administration has moved aggressively to build the nation’s supply of ventilators.

Pence said earlier Tuesday he spoke with Gov. Tony Evers.

“The governor reflected the same pride that all of us feel about GE Healthcare and all the union machinists that are here,” he said.

“I’m told at the present moment we’ve managed through our national stockpiles to distribute some 11,000 ventilators, many of which were made here … and across the nation. We have over 9,000 in the stockpile,” he said.

Pence said Evers told him “there are now more than 300 Wisconsinites on the ventilators today, that there are some 1,400 ventilators available in the state.”

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