Concerns Grow Whether Hospitals Have Adequate Supply of N95 Masks

US hospitals are reusing N95 respiratory masks as they search frantically for medical supply companies to replinish their depleted supplies.  Susan Bailey, President of the American Medical Association said the situation is “maddening, frustrating, mind-blowing, aggravating”. 

During times of national medical crisis and worldwide pandemic US hospitals and health care providers have relied on the government’s national stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a backup to their dwindling supplies. However, during this year’s coronavirus (covid 19) pandemic the Trump administration failed to effectively utilize the Defense Production Act to ensure adequate supplies of critical PPE, including N95 respirator masks.   

According to USA Today, US companies were exporting massive amounts of N95 respiratory masks overseas even after the Trump administration became aware of skyrocketing covid 19 infection rates in the US.  In March of this year the US exported more N95 respirator masks to other countries than in any other month in the last ten years. Peter Navarro, White House Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy sent a memo to Vice-President Pence, Chair of the COVID-19 Task Force inquiring why the exporting of N-95 masks had not been halted.  

According to the Post, in 2018 US government officials passed up an offer to purchase a machine that would make 1.5 million N95 masks per day; and they rejected the offer of another N95 mask manufacturer earlier this year.  In fact, the US government didn’t utilize the Defense Production Act to purchase N95 respiratory masks from multiple companies until there were 8,000 reported COVID-19 cases.


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