4 updates on the US medical oxygen supply

As COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S., hospitals in hard-hit areas are seeing their supplies of medical-grade oxygen strained. 

Four updates on the national oxygen supply: 

  1. The Biden administration is working closely with oxygen suppliers and other stakeholders to monitor the situation and is providing support as needed, an HHS spokesperson told CNN Aug. 31. At least one hospital group told CNN it has had to reach out to the federal government for help with its oxygen supply.

  2. High-flow oxygen has proven to be more useful in treating COVID-19 patients than ventilators, Donna Craft, the senior director of facilities and construction at group purchasing organization Premier, told CNN. But medical-grade oxygen isn't stored in the Strategic National Stockpile as ventilators are, and hospitals are struggling to keep pace with the increase in demand for oxygen as COVID-19 cases rise.
  3. Some hospitals in Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana are at risk of having to tap their reserve supply of oxygen or risk running out soon, state health officials and hospital consultants told CNN.

    "Normally, an oxygen tank would be about 90 [percent] full, and the suppliers would let them get down to a refill level of 30-40 [percent] left in their tank, giving them a three- to five-day cushion of supply," Ms. Craft told CNN. "What's happening now is that hospitals are running down to about 10-20 [percent], which is a one- to two-day supply on hand, before they're getting backfilled. Even when they're getting backfilled, it's only a partial supply of about 50 [percent]. It is a very critical situation."

  4. Health officials in Hawaii said they are worried the demand for oxygen will exceed what the islands can produce, CBS News reported Aug. 31. Since the beginning of August, Hawaii's daily consumption for oxygen has increased by almost 250 percent, the state's healthcare association told CBS News.

    "This is the first time that there has been a potential shortage," Hilton Raethel, CEO and president of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, told CBS News. "It doesn't mean we're running out of oxygen, because these plants are producing 24/7. The question is: Do we have enough?"

    Hawaii Pacific Health, a health system based in Honolulu, recently told staff to cancel nonemergency procedures that require oxygen, CBS News reported.


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