Trump administration justifies national stockpile of PPE

Trump administration justifies PPE stockpile amid rise in cases

The Trump administration is defending its decision to restock a national stockpile of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and related medical wear as COVID-19 cases proliferate in the U.S.

Despite ongoing spikes and an official death toll of 300,000, American officials responsible for the U.S. Strategic Stockpile deny mismanagement.

“We are in a significantly better position than we’ve ever been, and in a dramatically different position than we were in January 2020,” stated Paul Mango, HHS deputy chief of staff for policy.

This was in response to a Wall Street Journal report describing that the SNS and Federal Emergency Management Agency only had 142 million N95 masks after failing to meet goals set in May to produce 300 million masks by now.

Coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket

COVID-19 cases have risen exponentially, totally over 3,000 daily deaths on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The Guardian, in partnership with Kaiser Health News, is investigating the deaths of nearly 1,500 frontline healthcare workers who potentially died from Covid-19, with a majority being people of colour.

The number is expected to rise significantly as new data reports are released in the upcoming weeks.

As hospitals in key hotspots like Ohio, New Mexico, and California report maximum ICU capacity, a new record of almost 107,000 COVID-related hospitalisations has been reached.

Endemic PPE shortages

In May, the Trump administration declared its intentions to increase the supply of N95 respirator masks to 300 million over the following three months.

The U.S. stockpile currently stands at 164 million N95 masks, 201 million surgical and procedural masks, 84 million gowns and 65 million gloves, according to an HHS spokesperson.

This compares to just 12 million N95s, 30 million surgical and procedural masks, 4 million gowns and 16 million gloves in January 2020, right before the onset of the global pandemic.

In response, the administration did not deny shortages, but attempted to smooth over concerns regarding the PPE supply.

At a media briefing, Paul Mango stated “We’re not the Walmart that you can walk into on a daily basis to get your standard needs to treat patients and get PPE. We are a 911 response team.”

He further commented that the stockpile has not refused a single state request for supplies.

In light of continued PPE shortages, testing equipment, and related medical equipment, states have called for increased federal support to ensure a supply stream and streamline the distribution process.

A survey of nurses conducted by the American Nurses Association in September found that forty-two per cent of respondees reported some kind of PPE shortages, with over half saying they were forced to reuse single-use PPE, such as N95 masks, for five or more days.

Accusations of chronic mismanagement

The U.S. government is awaiting an additional 76 million N95s, 88 million surgical and procedural masks, 55 million gowns and 600 million gloves by the end of 2020.

The Trump Administration has spent over $530 million this year alone on PPE manufacturing, a figure expected to grow by several hundred million dollars as the government finalises investment in nitrile glove manufacturing.

The federal government has fought accusations of persistent mismanagement, particularly the failure to create a centralised database for distribution management.

HHS officials have stated that hospitals are using less PPE supplies than earlier in the year after gaining experience on how to treat COVID patients more effectively.

They assert that this has lowered the amount of PPE required per admission, but the fact remains that at its current rate, COVID-related deaths are expected to reach half a million by February 2021, according to researchers at the University of Washington.

However, this projection could be curbed significantly if a vaccine is widely distributed throughout the U.S. – the FDA recently granted emergency authorisation for the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine after an advisory panel vocalised its strong support.

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