FEMA plans to have providers reuse masks, gowns

Gabrielle Masson - Print  | 

An internal Federal Emergency Management Agency document shows that the U.S. government's supply of surgical gowns and masks has not meaningfully increased, as reported by Roll Call.

"The demand for gowns outpaces current U.S. manufacturing capabilities," reads the document released June 9.

Since the pandemic began, domestic manufacturing of gowns and surgical masks has increased by a few thousand per month. Now, as states are reopening, the demand for personal protective gear is rising.

FEMA's plan to increase supply in June and July depends on reusing N95 masks and surgical gowns, according to the document. The information was given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee ahead of a June 9 hearing on inadequate distribution of supplies, and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., demanded the document be made public.

The information doesn't include independent purchases by states, commercial donations, small distributors or direct shipments from manufacturers. FEMA also anticipates a surge of face shields from "non-traditional" suppliers like car and plane manufacturers that will meet the demand. The documents reveal projections of a decline in supply demand from hospitals. The predictions are based on epidemiological models, interagency analyses, industry estimates and historical data, according to the document.

FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor said it was difficult to make the projections, because officials had to take into account the demand for PPE from people who don't typically wear it.

The agency also anticipates an increase in N95 respirator mask supply in the fall as contracts funded through pandemic relief laws cleared by Congress are fulfilled.

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