Feds’ Stockpile for Coronavirus Response is Exhausted

April 9, 2020by Noam N. Levey and Del Quentin Wilber, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
Los Angeles County Fire Department lifeguard Danielle McMillon surveys a stockpile of surgical and protective masks stored in a secret government warehouse and destined for local hospitals. (Los Angeles County/TNS)

WASHINGTON — As the Trump administration depleted the national stockpile of medical supplies over the last month to fight the coronavirus, it sent hundreds of thousands of masks, respirators and other protective equipment to states with very small outbreaks, new records show.

That left medical workers in areas hit hardest by the pandemic, including New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Washington, hustling to find the supplies they needed with relatively little aid from the stockpile. Yet Hawaii, Montana and Nebraska, which each have had fewer than 500 recorded cases, each received more than 79,000 of the critically needed N95 masks.

The distribution of scarce medical equipment has emerged as a key point of controversy in the administration’s response, as states have been left to scramble on their own to get what they need. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services have refused to divulge details of what equipment was going to what states.

Government officials told the Los Angeles Times that FEMA and HHS considered the populations of states and major metropolitan areas as well as the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in determining how to allocate supplies.

“HHS has deployed personal protective equipment from the (Strategic National Stockpile) to areas in need in the most equitable way for a nationwide response,” a spokesperson for the agency said. “The supplies, medicines and devices for lifesaving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term, stopgap buffer.”

The new data — which were obtained and released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform — show that larger states and cities did, in fact, receive more material than other places, if far from enough.

Stricken areas, including New York City and Washington state, have also received supplemental shipments of equipment, the data show. California and Los Angeles County, each of which received allotments, together got 1,087,021 N-95 masks, second only to New York and New York City, which got 1,096,922 combined.

New York state and New York City, where hospitals have been struggling to keep up with the crush of infected patients, also received 4,400 ventilators, more than half of those distributed. California received 170.

Ventilators also went to some smaller states with very limited outbreaks, including Alaska and Oregon. Oregon received nearly as many devices, 140, as the 150 that went to Louisiana. Yet Louisiana had more than 16,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while Oregon had 1,200.

A total of 7,920 ventilators were sent from the stockpile, far fewer than experts say is needed nationwide. The administration is now contracting with manufacturers, including General Motors, to build more machines.

House Democrats said the federal government must take a more active role in ensuring states get the equipment they need, especially now that the stockpile has been depleted. “It appears the Administration is leaving states to fend for themselves,” Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the committee, said in a statement.

Trump and his top advisers said the government is working hard to obtain protective equipment, including by starting an “air bridge” of flights from China, where much of the needed gear is manufactured, to bring material to the United States.

To date, the federal government mostly has been assailed for its lack of preparation and inadequate stores of protective gear. The newly released data are certain to raise additional questions of how the supplies have been doled out.

For example, New York has by far the largest outbreak of COVID-19, with more than 138,000 cases, according to CDC data. That is nearly 400 times more cases than in Hawaii, which had 362. Yet New York received only 12 times as many N95 masks as Hawaii.

FEMA did not respond to questions about the data Wednesday. Nor has the agency explained why it has not released information about where equipment from the stockpile has gone, despite repeated requests from the Times.

Distribution of material from the stockpile represents only one part of the federal government’s work on medical supplies. FEMA has also been working with other federal agencies to seize orders of medical equipment placed by hospitals, medical clinics and others, often expropriating the material without explanation.

The agency has declined to divulge where those orders are coming from or where they are going.

———

©2020 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In The News

Tester, IAVA Detail Economic and Emotional Toll Coronavirus Taking On U.S. Veterans
Veterans
Tester, IAVA Detail Economic and Emotional Toll Coronavirus Taking On U.S. Veterans
June 4, 2020
by Gaspard Le Dem

As the U.S. struggles to fight off a lingering coronavirus pandemic, the full impact of the crisis on the lives of Americans is just starting to come into view. But for the veteran community -- as for many other groups -- the crisis has already taken... Read More

Census Bureau Finds High Disability Rates Among Post 9-11 Vets
Veterans
Census Bureau Finds High Disability Rates Among Post 9-11 Vets
June 4, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - America's veteran population is changing, with its overall size declining, the number of women in its ranks on the rise, and a generation of Post 9-11 vets who are far more likely to suffer from a service-connected disability than their predecessors. Those are primary... Read More

Obama Steps Out as Nation Confronts Confluence of Crises
Political News
Obama Steps Out as Nation Confronts Confluence of Crises

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama is taking on an increasingly public role as the nation confronts a confluence of historic crises that has exposed deep racial and socioeconomic inequalities in America and reshaped the November election. In doing so, Obama is signaling a willingness... Read More

Ex-Defense Chief Mattis Rips Trump for Dividing Americans
Military
Ex-Defense Chief Mattis Rips Trump for Dividing Americans

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an extraordinary rebuke, former defense secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday denounced President Donald Trump's heavy-handed use of military force to quell protests near the White House and said his former boss was setting up a “false conflict" between the military and civilian... Read More

Virginia Governor to Announce Removal of Lee Statue
State News
Virginia Governor to Announce Removal of Lee Statue

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to announce plans Thursday to remove one of the country’s most iconic monuments to the Confederacy, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee along Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.... Read More

Malaria Drug Fails to Prevent COVID-19 in a Rigorous Study
Health
Malaria Drug Fails to Prevent COVID-19 in a Rigorous Study

A malaria drug President Donald Trump took to try to prevent COVID-19 proved ineffective for that in the first large, high-quality study to test it in people in close contact with someone with the disease. Results published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine show that hydroxychloroquine... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top