US Supplies of Covid-19 PPE Falls Short of Target
The US government has fallen short on the goal to gather & stockpiles PPE supplies such as respirator masks for health care workers amid the increase of COVID-19 cases. In May, the Trump administration said that it was aiming to increase the emergency supply of N95 masks to 300 million in the following 3 months. However, by November the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile & the Federal Emergency Management Agency only had 142 million N95 masks. Not even half of the original goal set back in May.
The U.S. has also failed to establish a centralized database to distribute medical gear to all health providers. On top of that, The Department of Health and Human Services hasn’t adopted key recommendations to ease supply shortages made in September by the U.S. government. This issue pushes HHS and FEMA to adopt the September recommendations to address how it would deal with the supply shortages and help states track supply requests. An HHS spokeswoman called these GAO proposals vague and disagreed with the need to follow the recommendations on handling supply shortages. On the other hand, a FEMA spokeswoman said that the agency is continuing to work to ensure the necessary equipment and supplies are distributed to states and others.
With the current wave of cases surging, public health and state leaders fear that the U.S. death toll, which is currently at 280,000, will double by February. Get Us PPE has been able to supply 3 million pieces of PPE since the start of the pandemic. Regardless, it still can’t meet about 85% of the incoming requests as cases in the U.S. continue to rise.
Despite everything, there has been some progress. The U.S. domestically produces about 150 million N95 masks a month compared to producing 20 million N95 masks a month prior to the pandemic. Although production has increased, problems still persist. Some states haven’t been getting PPE that they have requested, while others say they have received damaged goods. With all this going on, 42% of nurses are saying that they are still experiencing widespread personal equipment shortages. Over half of nurses have said they are reusing N95 masks for more than 5 days. This is a 15% increase from May.
One thing is for certain. The U.S. government needs to get the resources in line to help the states get the PPE supplies it needs. Whether that’s finally getting a centralized database in place or pushing to manufacture more supplies, something has to get done.