WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan successfully called on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Pete Gaynor to make public a document that details some of the Trump administration’s estimates on the supply and demand for personal protective equipment (PPE).
The document includes the administration’s estimates about the demand for N95 masks and other PPE, but is still missing key information. Senator Hassan pressed Administration Gaynor to release the document during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing yesterday. Following the hearing, the Senator submitted additional questions to FEMA asking for longer-term projections for PPE, and for similar projections for testing supplies.
The Senator is working to address the country’s supply chain issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Hassan recently joined her colleagues in introducing legislation to federalize the medical supply chain to increase national production, delivery, and oversight of critical medical supplies to better address shortages on the frontlines. Additionally, the Senator is pushing the administration to address shortfalls in syringes and needles, which will be necessary to deliver a future COVID-19 vaccine.
See below for coverage highlights:
By: Emily Kopp
Internal Federal Emergency Management Agency data show that the government’s supply of surgical gowns has not meaningfully increased since photos first emerged in March of nurses wearing trash bags for protection.
“The demand for gowns outpaces current U.S. manufacturing capabilities,” a document released Tuesday says.
The document confirms the fears of nurses and other health care providers. After months of pressure on federal officials to use wartime powers to mobilize U.S. plants, the document's slides show that domestic manufacturing of gowns and surgical masks has ticked up by a few thousand per month since the pandemic hit, falling far short of need. The United States still does not manufacture any nitrile rubber gloves.
[…] The internal slides were given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday night ahead of a hearing Tuesday on inadequate distribution of supplies. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., demanded the slides be made public Tuesday.
[…] Hassan, questioning FEMA Administrator Peter T. Gaynor at the hearing, accused the agency of dodging questions about how many N95 masks and other protective equipment will be needed throughout the duration of the pandemic.
She said it took “over a month of pressure” from the committee to learn the agency’s projections about U.S. needs for PPE. Hassan said FEMA staff initially told her they were confidential.
“Administrator Gaynor, why is the agency refusing to make these documents public? Public scrutiny is critical to evaluate these projections: how they were developed, [and] whether they account for real needs in nursing homes, hospitals, schools and businesses,” she said.
Gaynor replied they should be released.
[…] FEMA anticipates an increase in the supply of N95 respirator masks in the fall as contracts funded through pandemic relief laws cleared by Congress in March and April are fulfilled.
“We already had some U.S. production going into the middle of March. We used the Defense Production Act to ramp that up from 30 to 40 million masks a month to 180 million masks a month, which I think will be sufficient,” Polowczyk said.