Tags: Coronavirus | Trump Administration | masks | stockpile | coronavirus | pandemic

National Stockpile Hasn't Significantly Refilled Face Masks Since 2009

a pile of N-95 facemasks
Protective N-95 face masks lie on a table at an office in Washington, DC.(Eva Hambach/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 10 March 2020 09:56 PM

The Strategic National Stockpile, which is the federal government's cache of drugs and medical supplies, distributed 85 million N95 face mask in response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, and has not significantly refilled them since that time industry and health experts say. 

The gear came from emergency funding that was authorized by Congress in 2007 and 2009, reports The Washington Post.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services said the stockpile has 12 million N95 respirators and 30 million surgical masks. That is only about 1 percent of the 3.5 billion masks that would be needed in a pandemic. Another 5 million of the N95 masks are now expired. 

HHS says it plans to buy 500 million N95 masks in the next 18 months, and the government has said the purchases will happen even if hospitals end up canceling orders. 

However, there have been warnings about the potential shortages for years. In mid-2009, the International Safety Equipment Association, a trade group for makers of protective equipment, urged that the N95 masks be restocked, warning of "significant shortages" if there was another pandemic.

The next year, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, a  nonprofit representing public health agencies also called for the masks to be replenished.

However, officials had a budget of about $600 million annually and focused more on restocking lifesaving drugs and equipment to fight other diseases and disasters. 

Meanwhile, the new coronavirus has no specific anti-viral treatment or vaccine, and Gerrit Bakker, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials senior director for public health preparedness, said that was "shortsighted."


The stockpile is valued at $7 billion, but experts say it reflects an underfunded health system that focuses more on smaller inventories and depends on private supply chains in times of emergency. 

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The Strategic National Stockpile, which is the federal government's cache of drugs and medical supplies, distributed 85 million N95 face mask in response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, and has not significantly refilled them since that time industry and health...
masks, stockpile, coronavirus, pandemic
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2020-56-10
Tuesday, 10 March 2020 09:56 PM
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