The latest sobering revelation out of the House Oversight Committee Wednesday is that the Strategic National Stockpile is depleted of medical supplies needed to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, and much of them were doled out haphazardly.
According to a detailed document the committee obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services, and briefings with officials, all the supplies have been shipped out, in three or four waves. But much of the respirator masks, gowns, gloves and other equipment was not distributed based solely on need. It was largely dealt out in the first two distributions based on Census population data, and then in a third or fourth "final push" that appears almost random. For instance, the stockpile sent Texas and tiny Vermont equal shipments of 102,900 respirator masks -- 193 respirators per 1,000 people in Vermont, compared to fewer than five masks for 1,000 Texans. Now states are essentially on their own. The Trump administration has established “Project Airbridge” to bring in equipment, but the materials are given to private companies who do not have to pledge prioritize high-need hospitals, or pay for the shipping costs. They must only promise to send half of the federally provided gear to hot spots like New York. “Now that the national stockpile has been depleted of critical equipment, it appears that the Administration is leaving states to fend for themselves, to scour the open market for these scarce supplies, and to compete with each other and federal agencies in a chaotic, free-for-all bidding war," said Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
The White House's talking points recently argue that it is not the administration's place to take charge of the crisis, such as a readout the Vice President Mike Pence's office released after he help a meeting with emergency management officials and governors. "Participants discussed the federal governments supply chain support, which is supplementing efforts of the commercial supply chain," the readout said. "Emergency management in America is locally executed, state-managed, and federally supported, which allows for innovative solutions to be identified at the local and State level." Although President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is leading a coronavirus response team in the White House, infamously told reporters that the stockpile was for the federal government, not the states, the HHS data says 90% of the equipment went to the states, while the feds kept 10 percent for federal workers.
The stockpile appears to have been largely depleted by the end of March, before Kushner made his claims.
The news of the depletion comes as Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned in a Fox News interview that "It's going to be a bad week for deaths" in the United States, and that the peak may be in sight next week. The Some highlights from the data released Wednesday, per the Oversight Committee
Only 11.7 million N95 respirator masks have been distributed nationwide—less than 1% of the 3.5 billion masks that the Trump Administration estimated would be necessary in the event of a severe pandemic.
Only 7,920 ventilators have been distributed from the stockpile, even though a recent survey of 213 mayors—which did not include New York City, Chicago, or Seattle—identified a total estimated need of 139,000 ventilators.
HHS staff stated that the Trump Administration has made its final shipments of personal protective equipment to states from the Strategic National Stockpile, accounting for 90% of the stockpile’s inventory of N95 respirators, surgical and face masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves. The remaining 10% of personal protective equipment in the stockpile is reserved for federal workers and will not be distributed to states.
Maloney said in her statement that Trump is to blame for these failings. “The President failed to bring in FEMA 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.”