The federal emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment like gloves and masks is running low and nearly depleted, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Dozens of countries across the world are scrambling to get their hands on the same equipment, and many states in the U.S. were out-bid on PPE products even in the United States. Companies in New Jersey had 43 million masks available as the crisis was growing, but the vast majority of them were purchased by foreign buyers and shipped out of the country, according to Forbes.
“The stockpile was designed to respond to handful of cities. It was never built or designed to fight a 50-state pandemic,” one DHS official told the Post. “This is not only a U.S. government problem. The supply chain for PPE worldwide has broken down, and there is a lot of price-gouging happening.” (RELATED: Country Music Icon Joe Diffie Dies At The Age Of 61 Due To Coronavirus Complications)
This is not a surprise to the U.S., however, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency “acknowledged” in its planning phase that the stockpile would not be up to the task on its own, officials told the Post.
Part of the problem is that large chunks of the stockpile were used up to combat the H1N1 Swine Flu under President Barack Obama, but the stores were never replaced.
Even had the emergency reserves been fully stocked, however, it would not have amounted to the 3.5 billion that are estimated to be needed. The shortage has led President Donald Trump’s administration to request that construction companies donate their stores of masks during the pandemic. (RELATED: Improbable, But Not Impossible: Could Andrew Cuomo Walk Away From A Brokered Convention With The Democratic Nomination?)
The administration hasn’t just been asking nicely, it has also threatened to use the Defense Production Act to force any unwilling companies to produce the necessary medical equipment. Most companies have proven willing to lend help of their own accord, but Trump did use the DPA to force General Motors back in line in late March.