The national stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) is nearly empty as federal officials scramble to acquire more essential items such as masks and gloves to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“The stockpile was designed to respond to a handful of cities. It was never built or designed to fight a 50-state pandemic,” one official with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told The Washington Post. “This is not only a U.S. government problem. The supply chain for PPE worldwide has broken down, and there is a lot of price gouging happening.”
Hospitals across the country have been working to supply doctors and nurses responding to the coronavirus epidemic with proper protective gear, though news reports and social media postings have shown medical professionals wearing trash bags or ponchos over their regular attire. Hospital officials have also acknowledged difficulties in acquiring PPE.
"This crisis is only growing and it’s essential that we not only have all the right equipment but that we come together to help and support one another," one spokesperson for Mount Sinai Health Services in New York told The Hill.
DHS officials warned the Post that serious consequences could arise if hospitals aren't able to provide adequate equipment to keep nurses and doctors from being infected.
“If you can’t protect the people taking care of us, it gets ugly," one said.
Officials at the White House and DHS did not immediately return requests for comment from The Hill.
The coronavirus outbreak has now sickened more than 190,000 people in the U.S., more than any country in the world, while globally more than 900,000 have contracted the disease.