Pennsylvania Needs 500,000 N95 Masks. FEMA Has Only Delivered 112,250.

Medical workers perform a coronavirus test on driver at the Temple University Ambler campus in Ambler, Pa., Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

By Kimberly Lawson

April 3, 2020

New documents from the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee show just how short the state is on much needed supplies.

In order to protect medical workers as they prepare for the novel coronavirus outbreak to hit its peak in Pennsylvania, state officials requested nearly 500,000 N95 respirator masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Less than one quarter of that amount has been delivered to date—112,250.

According to documents released Thursday by the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the state also requested 690,346 gloves, 582,188 face/surgical masks, additional testing equipment, surgical gowns, and face shields. Almost all of the requested face shields have been received, but only two-thirds of the gloves, and none of the testing swabs or transport tubes. 

“The state is looking at what we have in storage, working to procure items and also working through the critical medical supplies procurement portal to allow businesses that may already have these supplies or the ability to make them to work with the state,” said Nate Wardle, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Pennsylvania health officials said there are approximately 4,000 ventilators available at hospitals across the state, per the Inquirer. Gov. Tom Wolf said earlier this week that the state is actively searching for more in case the demand for more should arise. 

“I think, in a perfect world, looking at a very conservative model, if we could get another 1,000 to 1,400 ventilators in Pennsylvania, that would be great,” Wolf said at a news conference. “So we’re trying to do that.”

The documents released by the Oversight Committee lists supplies requested by states that fall in FEMA’s Region III: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virgina, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. 

Demand for these items is high across the country, and the federal government is falling short of meeting the need. According to reports from the Department of Homeland Security earlier this week, supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile are nearly gone.

“FEMA planning assumptions for COVID-19 pandemic response acknowledged that the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) alone could not fulfill all requirements at the State and tribal level,” Janet Montesi, a FEMA spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The federal government will exhaust all means to identify and attain medical and other supplies needed to combat the virus.”

RELATED: Trump Passes the Buck to States on Giving Nurses and Doctors What They Need

As of Friday morning, there were 7,016 documented cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, and 90 deaths. Wardle said the reason Gov. Wolf directed Pennsylvanians to stay home is largely due to the shortage of masks and other protective supplies. “We need to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed and the best way to do that is for people to stay home,” Wardle said.

Sen. Bob Casey told the Morning Call that the FEMA Oversight Committee documents are a result of the Trump administration’s lack of preparedness for the pandemic. “Every state is struggling with similar critical shortages of respirators and other personal protective equipment and medical supplies; no one has enough, including the federal government.” 

President Trump fought back at the criticism of his administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis on Twitter Thursday, implying that Democratic governors have “insatiable appetites” and that “massive amounts” of medical supplies are being delivered by the federal government. “The complainers should … have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit. Other states are thrilled with the job we have done.” 

Last week, Gov. Wolf signed a bill authorizing up to $50 million to buy medical supplies for hospitals, nursing homes, and emergency workers fighting on the front lines of the outbreak.

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