Story at a glance
- WHO officials said the agency has shipped millions of items to dozens of countries, but more is needed.
- Some hospitals in the U.S. are reporting equipment shortages.
- The worldwide total has surpassed a half-million cases with more than 20,000 deaths.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday the limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers is "one of the most urgent threats" amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The chronic global shortage of personal protective equipment is now one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday during a news briefing. “When health workers are at risk, we are all at risk,” he said.
Tedros said WHO has shipped 2 million items to 74 countries, with plans to send similar amounts to dozens of other nations, but warned masks, gloves and face shields must be produced and distributed at larger scales.
Tedros said the problem “can only be solved with international cooperation and solidarity.”
He added the agency is working urgently to “massively” increase the production and capacity for testing around the world and noted that a vaccine for the coronavirus is still at least 18 months away.
The worldwide total has hit more than a half-million confirmed cases with more than 20,000 deaths.
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Hospitals in the United States are struggling with equipment shortages, and some have been forced to reuse masks and gloves that otherwise should be discarded, according to The Washington Post.
House Democrats this week sent a letter to the Trump administration asking for evidence that medical equipment needed to treat patients is in ready supply.
In the letter delivered to President Trump Thursday, dozens of Democrats cite cases of hospitals lacking not only test kits, but also personal protective equipment like medical masks and gowns.
This comes as the U.S. has surpassed every other country in the world in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. More than 90,000 cases have been confirmed with more than 1,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University tracker.
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