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Accepting masks from China, Graham calls for U.S. production

April 26, 2020 GMT
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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks at a news conference about the coronavirus relief bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Senators discussed what they are calling a "drafting error" in the 2 trillion dollar stimulus bill expected to be voted on today in the Senate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks at a news conference about the coronavirus relief bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Senators discussed what they are calling a "drafting error" in the 2 trillion dollar stimulus bill expected to be voted on today in the Senate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — In accepting delivery of 1.5 million surgical masks from China, officials in South Carolina took an opportunity Sunday to express appreciation for the supplies needed to stem the coronavirus outbreak but to also call for a lessening of U.S. reliance on the foreign country.

“We want the masks made in the United States,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said, during an availability on the tarmac of the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, after watching the unloading of the masks from a Boeing aircraft. “We don’t want to ever have to rely on China or anyone else for our basic health care needs.”

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Throughout the outbreak, Graham has repeatedly called for a draw-down of U.S. reliance on China, tweeting earlier this month he wanted the U.S. response to COVID-19 to be “so overwhelming China will change its behavior.” The Republican also told Fox News he felt the U.S. “should send China a bill for the pandemic.”

Noting he expected a resurgence of the virus in the fall, Graham said Sunday he wanted the U.S. to be “much better prepared” in terms of needed supplies by the time that happens.

“The medical supply chain is coming back to America,” he said.

U.S. Rep. William Timmons echoed Graham’s comments, saying of the necessity of a mask shipment from China: “This will not happen again.”

The 1.5 million masks delivered Sunday are enough to equip PRISMA hospitals in South Carolina for one month, according to CEO Mark O’Halla. Of the shipment, 100,000 are being sent to the Medical University of South Carolina, he said.

For most people, the coronavirus behind the pandemic causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause severe illness such as pneumonia, or even death.

As of Sunday, nearly 5,500 people had tested positive in South Carolina, with at least 174 deaths, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Characterizing the delivery as “a great day for our state,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster thanked President Donald Trump - of whom he is a longtime ally - for “leadership, understanding, courage and innovation and encouragement to all of us, to do the best we can, to make this turn out right for the people of our country.”

McMaster also reiterated his desire to see the state’s economy reopening, toward which he announced steps last week.

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“We’re looking forward to getting back to work as quickly as we can, as safely as we can,” he said.

___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.