When the best defenses fail: U.S. hospitals are facing a critical shortage of face masks and PPE. Where was Trump’s famed ‘America First’ trade protectionism, when America really needed it to prevent thousands of masks in the U.S. from being shipped overseas to China? Many U.S. hospitals only have a 2 weeks supply of face masks and PPE in reserve inventory.
People are stealing face masks and other health equipment from hospitals and other facilities where their existence is necessary amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the United States. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, claimed that thefts were happening in New York at a press conference Friday, CNBC reported. “Not just people taking a couple or three, I mean just actual thefts of those products,” Cuomo said. “I’ve asked the state police to do an investigation, look at places that are selling masks, medical equipment, protective wear, feeding the anxiety.”
Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, told Modern Healthcare she had witnessed thefts of masks and other protective equipment from high-trafficked areas in her facility. Stories of hospital mask theft have also posted to social media.“We’ve had to lock up the mask here at the hospital because people are stealing them,” one person said on Twitter. [Shoutout] to everyone buying and stealing masks from hospitals! Now we are critically low and I can’t even use a mask for sterile procedures,” another person tweeted. The issue is not limited to the United States. Global News reported in Canada instances at two hospitals where workers had to intervene to prevent people from stealing masks. Hospitals are just one type of facility being ravaged for masks.
Ya’el Courtney, a Ph.D. student studying neuroscience at Harvard University told Business Insider that masks had been found stolen from research facilities at her school. “Yesterday the director of the animal facility informed our lab (and others), that people have been stealing entire boxes of face masks and our inventory is rapidly declining,” Courtney said. –Business Insider
The Don’t Panic Red Herring: Public officials in New York urged citizens not to panic on March 4, but only three days later, the governor of New York was declaring a State of Emergency.
U.S. hospitals are facing a critical shortage of face masks and PPE. Where was Trump’s famed ‘America First’ trade protectionism to prevent thousands of masks in the US from being shipped overseas to China? Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have led to a run on protective masks, and some health care facilities in Wisconsin are feeling the effects of the shortage. A survey by the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) found that about half of member hospitals were facing shortages of the protective masks used to help prevent the spread of infections, said chief medical officer Dr. Mark Kaufman. He said a smaller number of hospitals have also seen shortages of N95 masks, which provide greater protection.
“Many of the supplies were back-ordered,” Kaufman said, and some vendors have begun rationing masks. Hospitals and clinics across the state have removed masks from public areas in order to conserve them. Ann Zenk, the WHA vice president of workforce and clinical practice, said masks should be used by people who themselves have symptoms of the disease, or of the flu, to prevent spreading the illness. They aren’t recommended for people who don’t have symptoms. “You can’t over-prepare, but you can overreact,” Zenk said. “An overreaction might be searching for masks.”
And the high demand for masks among people who aren’t sick has consequences. Joey Pettis, executive director of the Wisconsin Director of Nursing Council, said long-term care providers are vulnerable to the shortages. “The problem is, in some of our smaller buildings that don’t have large backup supplies, they’re suffering from some back orders of gowns and masks,” Pettis said. “It’s making it difficult to make sure we have enough supply to take care of people … who require some kind of isolation precautions.” –WPR
Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies: We found a single N95 mask selling for $1,149 on Ebay, and this dusk mask (seen above) selling for $200 with the false advertisement that it meets N95 standards.
Mask Hysteria: Mike Bowen’s been a very busy man. He’s executive vice president of Texas-based Prestige Ameritech, one of the few manufacturers of respirators and surgical face masks still making them in the United States. “I’ve got requests for maybe a billion and a half masks, if you add it up,” he says. That’s right — 1.5 billion. Since the coronavirus started spreading in January, Bowen says he’s gotten at least 100 calls and emails a day. “Normally, I don’t get any,” he says. Bowen is at the center of a major problem that the coronavirus has made crystal clear: There aren’t enough domestic manufacturers for critical medical supplies such as face masks. And even if production ramps up, it’s unlikely to be enough in the current outbreak.
His company simply can’t keep up with demand. 3M — one of the biggest mask makers — is in the same predicament. It says it’s stepping up production at its factories around the world, but it can’t fulfill all the new orders. The World Health Organization this week warned against hoarding and panic-buying of critical protective gear. “Without secure supply chains, the risk to health care workers around the world is real,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding.” –NPR