By Jonathan Allen and Cyrus Farivar
WASHINGTON — The federal government may not have the capacity to supply medical professionals with personal protective equipment amid the latest surge in coronavirus cases, according to internal administration documents obtained by NBC News.
For example, the Strategic National Stockpile and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have fewer than 900,000 gloves in reserve after shipping 82.7 million of them — or just 30 percent of the amount requested by state, local and tribal governments — since the COVID-19 crisis began, according to figures compiled Sunday by Health and Human Services Department officials for senior leaders of the interagency coronavirus task force effort.
In particular, nursing homes and long-term care facilities say there is a major personal protective equipment shortage.
“Currently, nearly 20 percent of nursing homes report to CDC [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] that they either do not have or have less than a one-week supply of PPE, and more than half of assisted living communities have less than a two-week supply of N-95 masks and gowns,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, wrote in a letter to governors Tuesday. “N-95 masks are still not available and were not included in the FEMA shipments to nursing homes.”
Chaun Powell, a senior official at the health care consulting group Premier Inc., which works with hospitals and other health care providers, said his firm is no longer confident that current federal inventories are sufficient to meet the additional increases in demand.
“Our primary focus for our 4,000 hospitals and 175,000 non-acute members has shifted to conservation until we see additional output” from private-sector manufacturing, he said in an email.
The disclosure comes as President Donald Trump and senior administration officials pressure state and local governments to reopen commerce — and prepare to open schools in the fall — despite rising fatalities, hospitalizations and rates of infection in major metropolitan areas and small towns across the country.
Nonetheless, Adm. John Polowczyk, the chief supply-chain official for the White House coronavirus task force, maintained in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday that the supply situation is “just not that dire.”