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HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed an order that allows the state to “commandeer” personal protective equipment and ventilators from health care providers and transfer the supplies to another facility in need as Pennsylvania prepares for an “imminent surge” in coronavirus cases.

Wolf said Wednesday the order will allow the state to move “key equipment” to high population areas that have been greatly impacted, as well as to areas with lower populations that “don’t have existing resources.”

“This will also prevent sick Pennsylvanians from having to choose which hospital to go to for fear that some have less access to equipment than others and it will help us make use of every ventilator, every piece of PPE, and every medical worker,” Wolf said in a statement.

Health care providers, both private and public, as well as manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers, will be required to submit current inventory to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency within five days.

According to the order, the state will pay for the supplies “under terms and conditions agreed upon.”

When asked during a Wednesday briefing if the order amounts to “confiscation” of needed supplies, Wolf replied, “I’m trying to make sure that we take this scarce set of resources we have and make sure we’re deploying them in the areas” that need them the most.

States including Pennsylvania have struggled to obtain enough PPE and ventilators from a federal stockpile and from private companies, as the demand for these items spikes. According to the order, the state will pay for the supplies at average prices in the seven days before March 6.

The state on Wednesday also rolled out a dashboard that shows how many hospital beds and ventilators are in use in each county.

This story will be updated.

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