Federal stockpile of emergency medical equipment depleted, House panel says


The federal government’s emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) is depleted, and states will not be receiving any more shipments, administration staff told a House panel.

Staff from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that the Trump administration has made its final shipments of personal protective equipment to states from the Strategic National Stockpile.

According to the staff, 90 percent of the stockpile’s inventory of N95 respirators, surgical and face masks, face shields, gowns and gloves have already been distributed to every state. 

The remaining 10 percent is reserved for federal workers and will not be distributed to states.   

Governors have said that a shortage of medical supplies has led to states navigating the private marketplace in an escalating bidding war against each other and the federal government. The depletion of the federal stockpile means those practices will continue.

“Now that the national stockpile has been depleted of critical equipment, it appears that the administration is leaving states to fend for themselves, to scour the open market for these scarce supplies, and to compete with each other and federal agencies in a chaotic, free-for-all bidding war,” committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

States that have turned to the federal government’s stockpile for emergency equipment have not received all they need. 

An internal administration document released by the committee on Wednesday showed that only 11.7 million N95 respirator masks have been distributed nationwide, which is less than 1 percent of the 3.5 billion masks that the administration estimated would be necessary in the event of a severe pandemic.

The committee also found that only 7,920 ventilators have been distributed from the stockpile.

According to the committee, distribution of the supplies has happened unevenly. According to HHS staff, most of the shipments were not based on states’ requests, but instead allocated based on population.

In other instances though, states received a set number with no explanation. For example, a “final push” to send out N95 respirators showed states received either 64,450 or 120,900 respirators. But both Vermont and Texas received 120,900 respirators. 

Based on 2010 Census data, the committee found the shipments were equivalent to roughly 193 respirators for every 1,000 residents in Vermont, but fewer than 5 respirators per 1,000 residents in Texas.

To try to patch the shortages, states like California, Oregon and Washington have lent ventilators to harder-hit states like New York and New Jersey.

California has also taken matters into its own hands with regards to PPE. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Wednesday said his state will invest more than $1.4 billion into PPE for both medical workers and front-line employees, including grocery store workers. 

The state has secured contracts for 200 million masks from various providers, and Newsom said the state could potentially export some to other states in need.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Coronavirus Gavin Newsom
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