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Almost all of the federal stockpile of personal protective equipment is depleted, new documents show

U.S. Army National Guard Soldiers with the 1053rd and 1055th Transportation companies, South Carolina National Guard, transport personal protective equipment and other supplies March 27, 2020 to the 46 counties in South Carolina in support of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The South Carolina National Guard remains ready to support the counties, local and state agencies, and first responders with requested resources for as long as needed in support of COVID-19 response efforts in the state. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joe Cashion, South Carolina National Guard)

Ninety percent of the federal personal protective equipment stockpile had been depleted as the Health and Human Services Department made its “final shipments” of N95 respirators, surgical and face masks, face shields, gowns and gloves, according to new documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight Committee

The remaining 10% of the stockpile, HHS said, would be reserved for federal workers and would not be sent to the states.

The documents, which report the distribution of personal protective equipment to state and local governments as of April 6, show that only 11.7 million N95 respirator masks and 7,920 ventilators have been distributed across the nation — both amounts small fractions of the estimated amount of protective equipment needed by frontline medical workers.

HHS confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday that the remaining equipment in the federal stockpile was in the process of being deployed.

President Donald Trump and his administration have insisted that the stockpile of ventilators and personal protective equipment is sufficient to combat the virus.

“We took over a stockpile where the cupboard was bare and where the testing system was broken and old. And we redid it,” Trump said in Tuesday’s coronavirus task force briefing.

As governors have warned of shortages of ventilators and personal protective equipment, on Wednesday, the Trump administration placed its first order under the Defense Production Act, compelling General Motors to deliver 30,000 ventilators by August. General Motors will be reimbursed nearly $490 million by the federal government for the order.

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said the first round of newly produced ventilators from General Electric and Hamilton Medical arrived in the national stockpile and that the federal government would continue to add newly manufactured resources. He also said additional ventilators had been distributed Wednesday.

The Committee also said the private sector was determining how supplies were allocated, rather than the federal government.

“The federal government is not taking control of the supplies flown into the United States in ‘Project Airbridge’ or directing private sector suppliers to send supplies to particular hospitals with urgent needs,” the Committee said.

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., slammed the Trump administration’s handling of supply distribution.

“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,” she said.


© 2020 USA Today