By Jon King/

Bipartisan cooperation among Michigan’s Congressional delegation will hopefully fast-track a process that could help ease the strain on needed medical-grade masks for health care workers.

8th District Democrat Elissa Slotkin told WHMI that she learned last week about a process that had been jointly developed by an area business, Lansing’s Sparrow Health System and Michigan State University that could potentially allow for the re-use of medical masks, which are in short-supply because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Slotkin says she called MSU President Samuel Stanley, who said the process showed promise, but it needed approval from the Food & Drug Administration.

She immediately thought of St. Joseph Congressman Fred Upton, who is the senior Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversees the FDA. "So I called Fred and I said "I gotta get this speeding through the FDA. Who do I call? What do I do?' He gets his staff on it. He's going to engage with the FDA himself. He has been fantastic through this whole thing and I need him, right? I need someone who oversees the FDA and knows it hand and glove. I really must say I've been really proud of the Michigan delegation in total for just the bipartisan work we've been doing together. I'm on the phone just as much with my Republican colleagues as I am with my Democratic colleagues and I think that's an important statement right now." MSU’s application, which was made Tuesday night, is for emergency approval of a process to use a commercial grade oven to heat N95 masks and kill any contaminants –– including the COVID-19 virus. The application also describes a system for tracking masks to ensure the same medical professional continues using the decontaminated mask, further reducing the risk of exposure. The process can help protect medical workers from infection as they care for COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, Slotkin says her staff is also working on “buy American” legislation that would shift manufacturing of essential medical supplies like masks, gowns and pharmaceuticals back to the United States. She says it has become obvious that is a national security issue and that the outsourcing of those supplies has gone too far. "The bottom line is, I never want us to go through this again. I am never going to let us be beholden to five factories in China to get medical equipment for our front line workers. That is what team in Washington right now is doing, working exclusively on legislation that to make the medical supply chain a "buy American" supply chain. We should never be beholden to China for our military equipment and we shouldn't for our health care workers either."

She expects to roll out details on that legislation later this week.