Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Peter Gaynor said his agency continues to ship face masks and other medical supplies from the national stockpile to meet the needs of local hospitals combating COVID-19. But he could not be specific as to the number of masks already shipped or the exact criteria for shipping them out.
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Gaynor on the “State of the Union” program that “how many masks does the federal government have right now and when can they get to local hospitals?”
“When it comes to supplies, we have been shipping from the national stockpile for weeks,” Gaynor replied. “We’ve been shipping, we shipped today, and we’re going to ship tomorrow.”
When pressed to provide a rough estimate of the number of masks shipped to hospitals in the front-lines of the coronavirus, Gaynor disclosed that he is more into “operational coordination” and that the operation is “dynamic and fluid.”
Leading medical officials across the country lament that the government does not have enough masks, gloves, and gowns among other necessities to fulfill the anticipated surge in COVID-19 infection cases in America. Hundreds of hospitals report that there are shortages of supplies in the face of rising cases, but the government said they have asked private companies to ramp up production even as they disburse supplies from the CDC’s national stockpile.
Although the Department of Defense promised to release up to five million face masks from its stockpile for hospitals, several organizations and private individuals have been making donations of N95 respirator masks and other protective medical equipment to hospitals. Healthcare professionals also want testing materials, ventilators, and swab supplies to be provided as well.
“The demand on these critical items is not only nationally, but it’s also globally,” Gaynor revealed. “We’re linking supplies, not only from the national stockpile but from vendors and commercial donations. And it’s just not about the federal government buying it. It’s also about those hospitals and other facilities, governors that, if you find it on the market, go ahead and buy it. FEMA will reimburse you for it.”
With over 26,000 COVID-19 infected cases and more than 300 deaths in the United States, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker disclosed that FEMA has been helpful in providing needed materials, but they have been grossly insufficient. He said that states are also competing against one another to access medical supplies and that the federal government should increase coordination efforts to make them sufficient for all.