States Get Fraction of Requested Supplies From Strategic Stockpile
WASHINGTON — Since the novel coronavirus was first detected in the District of Columbia about a month ago, the city has requested more than 1 million N95 masks from the national stockpile. The number of these masks the city has received: 5,520.
States are receiving just a fraction of the supplies they need from the Strategic National Stockpile, according to internal Federal Emergency Management Agency data for five states and the District of Columbia made public for the first time Thursday.
Less than 10 percent of the N95 masks requested by the states — Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia — have been distributed by the stockpile, according to the Trump administration’s internal data. The states also requested 194 million pairs of gloves, but received less than 1 percent of that amount.
The documents were released as part of an investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services briefed committee members on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The figures give the first look into the shape of the stockpile since HHS stopped releasing numbers on its supply of N95s and other essential equipment in mid-March.
The Trump administration officials acknowledged to the committee that its analysis pointed to a looming shortage in mid-January, weeks before nurses began raising the alarm about locked-up supplies and homemade masks and gowns on social media. Asked by the committee when more supplies would come into the stockpile, the agencies did not give a specific timeline.
The numbers come as nurses across the country express fear about treating patients with respiratory illness without the sort of equipment they need to limit their exposure to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Hospitals have rationed supplies in a way that puts health care providers in danger and retaliated against nurses who raised concerns, according to nurses unions.
The exposure of nurses and physicians to the new coronavirus could lead to the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals, unions and epidemiologists say.
“We don’t have an unlimited supply of health care professionals,” said Denise Duncan, a nurse and the president of United Nurses Associations of California.
A nurse working at Howard University Hospital died of COVID-19 late last week, according to the District of Columbia Nurses Association.
“Our country is not meeting our obligation” to health care workers, said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., on a call with reporters Wednesday. He said nurses and other health care providers are “fighting a war.”
The stockpile had 13 million N95 masks, also referred to as “respirators,” before U.S. cases of COVID-19 began climbing. HHS has estimated 3.5 billion N95s would be needed over the course of a year in a national viral outbreak.
Only about 9,500 ventilators, which hospitals are desperately seeking to help patients breathe, were in the national stockpile, according to information the committee said FEMA provided on Monday.
Governors, mayors, nurses unions and associations representing medical professionals such as the American Medical Association have all called for national coordination on the distribution of direly needed supplies according to need. Governors have been competing with other governors for a supply depleted in part by third-party brokers who mark up prices for a profit and the continuation of overseas shipments, according to recent news reports.
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency needs to better coordinate the distribution of supplies based on need,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican and the chairman of the National Governors Association, wrote in an op-ed.
“Right now, there is no single authority tracking where every spare ventilator is or where there are shortages. The lack of any centralized coordination is creating a counterproductive competition between states and the federal government to secure limited supplies, driving up prices and exacerbating existing shortages.”
Democratic lawmakers and medical organizations have called for wider deployment of the Defense Production Act, which would allow the federal government to purchase equipment without paying inflated prices and could compel the manufacture of more supply by industries that don’t typically produce safety equipment or medical devices.
The stockpile’s store of personal protective equipment has not been meaningfully replenished for a decade, according to a spokesperson for HHS.
The stockpile has also not released the supply of ventilators that states have requested. FEMA told the committee need is outstripping supply. According to the committee, FEMA’s administrator said ventilators would only be released to states after a rigorous process to determine an urgent need to sustain life “within 72 hours.”
“We desperately, desperately need ventilators in the public hospital system in particular,” said Henry A. Garrido, executive director, AFSCME District Council 37 in New York. “We have a situation now where respiratory therapists and people we represent are not only sharing (ventilators) among two or three patients, but are themselves in need as they get sick.”
©2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
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
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A wave of police killings of young black men in 2014 prompted 24 states to quickly pass some type of law enforcement reform, but many declined to address the most glaring issue: police use of force. Six years later, only about a... Read More
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republicans in northwest Iowa ousted Rep. Steve King in Tuesday’s primary, deciding they’ve had enough of the conservative lightning rod known for making incendiary comments about immigrants and white supremacy throughout his nearly two decades in Congress. The nine-term congressman, shunned... Read More
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — President Donald Trump said he is seeking a new state to host this summer’s Republican National Convention after North Carolina refused to guarantee the event could be held in Charlotte without restrictions because of ongoing concerns over the coronavirus. Trump announced the... Read More
WASHINGTON - Polls are set to open on Tuesday for the District of Columbia’s primary election despite ongoing civil unrest and a lingering coronavirus outbreak in the nation’s capital. For the past three nights, the District has been rocked by violent clashes between police and demonstrators... Read More
AMES, Iowa — Rep. Steve King is among the most conservative members of Congress, and he represents a district so red that Donald Trump won it by 27 percentage points in 2016. Yet the nine-term congressman is at risk of losing his seat — at the... Read More