As corona virus hotspots flare up from coast to coast, the demand for safety equipment – also known as personal protective equipment (PPE) – is both immediate and widespread. Health officials, hospital managers and governors say that their shortage is critical and that health care workers are putting their lives at risk while trying to help the growing number of patients.
Two DHS officials said that the Ministry of Health and Human Services’ Strategic National Stockpile business has almost disappeared, despite the White House̵
“The supply was developed to respond to a handful of cities. It was never built or designed to fight a pandemic involving 50 states, ”said a DHS official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the stock. “This is not just a problem for the US government. The supply chain for PPE worldwide has collapsed and there are many price cuts. “
President Trump said during the White House briefing on Tuesday that the administration has nearly 10,000 ventilators in reserve and that the authorities are ready to quickly deploy the life-saving devices to coronavirus hotspots in the coming weeks. He also said that large amounts of PPE are transported directly from the manufacturers to the hospitals. But DHS officials said the stock was unable to handle the cargo.
Hospitals and states are at real risk of running out of care, one official said. “If you can’t protect the people who care for us, it will get ugly.”
Several reports in the past few days have documented a Wild West-style bulk medical marketplace dominated by brokers and horters who sell N95 respirators and other gear at large premiums. Forbes reported that U.S. vendors sold 280 million masks – mainly in the export market – and that states and local governments were outbid in the frenzy.
There is little evidence that the Trump administration is making efforts to stop export deliveries or confiscate supplies for use in U.S. hospitals, although Attorney General William P. Barr said last week that U.S. wholesalers said that Hoarding masks and other supplies, “Your door would be hit. “
The governors have asked federal agencies to ship more equipment and protective gear. The distribution of the deliveries was uneven. Some states have received a fraction of the supplies they desperately need, and some cities have not received support from their state governments.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said the government expected the national strategic reserve to be exhausted and the administration to quickly procure and distribute medical care.
“FEMA’s planning assumptions for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic have confirmed that the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) alone cannot meet all state and tribal requirements,” said Janet Montesi, a FEMA spokeswoman, in a statement . “The federal government will use all means to identify and procure medical and other aids that are necessary to combat the virus.”
The government has more than $ 16 billion in acquisitions, she said.
“We continue to work to ensure that critical medical supplies quickly reach the front of our healthcare workers,” said Montesi.
By March 28, FEMA had shipped or delivered 11.6 million N95 respirators, 26 million surgical masks, 5.2 million face shields, 4.3 million surgical gowns, 22 million gloves, and 8,100 ventilators.
A supply of 1.5 million expired N95 masks that US Customs and Border Guard have stored is being distributed to the Transportation Security Administration and the US Immigration and Customs Service, CBP said in a statement. The Disease Control and Prevention Centers have issued guidelines for the safe use of masks with expired dates that may leave their elastic bands too loose to form a proper face seal.
MP Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) Said this week that she and other lawmakers had learned that some of the expired CBP masks would be given to hospitals.
“Officials confirmed that the masks actually go to healthcare workers and are prioritized according to the highest needs such as NY and NJ. I’ll go over to make sure this happens! “The legislator tweeted on Sunday.
A CBP official confirmed to the Washington Post on Wednesday that the masks would instead go to ICE agents and TSA officials, not FEMA employees or medical personnel.
The government has long viewed national stocks as a holdover during an emergency so the government could gain time for manufacturers to increase production and consolidate new supply chains, according to a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the The officer was not authorized to speak publicly. Having medical care in a warehouse is no use, the official said, although the administration has detained thousands of ventilators.
When asked if the government would not be able to keep up with demand for PSA supplies, the official said the government would have planes from Asia carrying new materials every day for the next few weeks, noting that that an aircraft load with 80 tons of PSA arrived from China on Sunday.