FEMA coronavirus supplies arrive mislabeled, slowing down state use: report

FEMA coronavirus supplies arrive mislabeled, slowing down state use: report
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Officials in two states have complained that they received mislabeled and incorrectly packaged shipments of medical supplies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that have delayed the distribution of badly needed equipment amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Seattle Times reported that officials in Washington state received thousands of sterilized polyester spun swabs used for coronavirus specimen collection in boxes improperly marked as "Comforts for Baby: Cotton Swabs," a mistake that initially led authorities to believe they had received the wrong product from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

WTTW, a PBS station in Chicago, reported that Illinois officials received the same misprinted boxes.


Upon further inspection, it was revealed that the boxes did contain the correct swabs, which were packed together instead of individually. State officials now must test the swabs to ensure they are sterile; typically, testing swabs approved for COVID-19 tests are packaged individually to prevent exposure.

“Having boxes full of swabs in bulk raises questions about sterility and whether we can use them at all,” Reed Schuler, a senior adviser to Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert Inslee121 University of Washington students test positive for coronavirus Barr praises Seattle police chief as officers clear protest zone OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer MORE (D), told the newspaper.

Additionally, there are concerns about whether the swabs were manufactured correctly to begin with, according to aides to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D). The swabs sent to Illinois officials are reportedly the length of a Q-tip, while testing swabs are typically longer, according to WTTW.

“At this point we’re trying to explore how they could be used,” a spokeswoman for Pritzker, Jordan Abudayyeh, told WTTW. “Maybe we would send them to be sterilized and put into individual packages, which will take time, money and effort.”

State officials are now considering repackaging the swabs individually before distributing them to hospitals, a time-consuming process Inslee's aide told the Times was “just another obstacle in a wild saga to expand testing.”

A memo later sent from U.S. Cotton LLC, which manufactured the swabs, indicated that future testing supplies would be packaged in blank boxes, though there was no indication of whether they would be packaged individually.

“Be assured that the printed packaging does contain the F.D.A. approved sterilized polyester spun swab for specimen collection of COVID-19," reads U.S. Cotton's memo.