Federal officials warned of PPE shortages early in US outbreak, KHN finds

A senior Veterans Affairs official warned of looming personal protective equipment shortages in late February as American clinicians first started to treat COVID-19 patients, according to internal emails reviewed by Kaiser Health News.

KHN obtained the emails through a public records request in King County, Wash., which experienced the nation's first major COVID-19 outbreak that killed 37 people.

The email chain's subject line was "Red Dawn Breaking Bad" and included 35 people, many of whom are senior officials from the VA, HHS, State Department and Department of Homeland Security. 

"We should plan assuming we won't have enough PPE — so need to change the battlefield and how we envision or even define the frontlines," Carter Mecher, MD, a physician and senior medical adviser at the VA, wrote in a Feb. 25 email. 

KHN noted the emails offer a "sharp contrast" to President Donald Trump's messaging about COVID-19 being a low risk to the public at the time. While the White House declined KHN's request for comment, VA Press Secretary Christina Mandreucci shared the following statement:

"All VA facilities are equipped with essential items and supplies to handle additional coronavirus cases, and the department is continually monitoring the status of those items to ensure a robust supply chain."

Dr. Mecher told KHN the emails involved "an informal group of us who have known each other for years exchanging information," and said that PPE shortages were top of mind for most healthcare stakeholders at the time.

To view KHN's full article, click here.

More articles on supply chain:
Hospitals airlifting supplies from other countries amid severe shortages
GPOs will save the healthcare industry $456B in the next decade, study finds
Trump: Some hospitals and healthcare workers are 'hoarding equipment, including ventilators'

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