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HHS: Federal stocks of protective equipment nearly depleted

ap photo In this Tuesday photo provided by the U.S. Air National Guard, airmen from the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard in Oxnard, Calif., deliver 200 ventilators to the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Airlift wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base, adjacent to Newburgh, N.Y.

WASHINGTON — The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services told the Associated Press Wednesday that the federal stockpile was in the process of deploying all remaining personal protective equipment in its inventory.

The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90% of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments.

HHS spokeswoman Katie McKeogh said the remaining 10% will be kept in reserve to support federal response efforts.

House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the Trump administration is leaving states to scour the open market for scarce supplies, often competing with each other and federal agencies in a chaotic bidding war that drives up prices.

“The President failed to bring in FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) early on, failed to name a national commander for this crisis, and failed to fully utilize the authorities Congress gave him under the Defense Production Act to procure and manage the distribution of critical supplies,” Maloney said. “He must take action now to address these deficiencies.”

For the last month, health care workers across the nation have taken to social media to illustrate the shortages by taking selfies wearing home-sewn masks on their faces and trash bags over their scrubs.

President Donald Trump has faulted the states for not better preparing for the pandemic and has said they should only being relying on the federal stockpile as a last resort.

The AP reported Sunday that the Trump administration squandered nearly two months after the early January warnings that COVID-19 might ignite a global pandemic, waiting until mid-March to place bulk orders of N95 masks and other medical supplies needed to build up the stockpile. By then, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for help.

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