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Tags: coronavirus | states | federal government | testing

Emails Show States Scrambling to Get Testing Supplies

a woman in a green hat drives by to support health care workers protesting the shortage of ppe in california
Health care workers drive by to express their support for nurses protesting the lack of N95 respirators and other personal protective equipment outside the UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica amid the coronavirus pandemic in Santa Monica, Calif. in April (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

By    |   Monday, 11 May 2020 12:47 PM EDT

State officials pleaded to federal agencies to send more supplies in March and April, according to newly obtain emails between various government officials.

The Hill reports it obtained emails from watchdog group Accountable.US that show states asking the Trump administration for help in securing more testing supplies. 

State officials asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for more supplies, but had limited success, according to the emails.

The emails show confusion over which states should ask for supplies. Even though officials said tens of millions of tests would be available by the end of March, the emails indicate many states were unable to obtain them. 

"Can you please help us understand ... what ... still needs to go through FEMA and what is through CDC IRR process around testing? This is different and we need a clear understanding to move forward," an Oregon health official asked FEMA and CDC in one email.

"What happens when they can not get what they need?" the official asked about customers that were not public health labs. 

An HHS official responded there was a "nationwide shortage on all testing supplies. FEMA and HHS are working with manufacturers to ramp up production.”

The HHS official told states to create their own plan to make sure testing materials were not depleted. 

"While this may reduce overall capacity in the short term, it will allow vital resources to be concentrated at key locations and maintain testing capability," the official said. 

Other emails suggest the federal government's system for distributing supplies sent testing kits in “insufficient quantities.” One email points out that federal officials told a state health department that they were completely out of a necessary reagent, an RNA extraction kit.

On April 11, officials at the Oregon Health Authority asked for help after they said they received just four of 5,000 testing kits requested from the CDC for their Abbott rapid point-of-care test.

"Can you please assist us in figuring out how we can get closer to a requested amount?," officials asked. "[A]t this point we have devices but no test kits to run any tests."

Five days later, they asked again.

"At this time there is a critical shortage on the Abbott test kits and the ability to acquire more is very difficult and competitive at the moment  . .  Since Abbott kits don’t seem to be the answer, I’m happy to assist with developing" a strategy to support rural labs, the official wrote.

State health officials in New Mexico also had problems getting a supply of extraction reagents. On April 4, state officials said they were close to running out. They were told the federal government was "out of stock."

"Almost exactly two months ago President [Donald] Trump told Americans that they could have a COVID-19 test if they wanted one. But even as Trump pushes states to reopen, millions of people across the country can’t get one,” Accountable. US President Kyle Herrig said in a statement. 

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State officials pleaded to federal agencies to send more supplies in March and April, according to newly obtain emails between various government officials.
coronavirus, states, federal government, testing
Monday, 11 May 2020 12:47 PM
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