The national shortage of N95 respirator masks can be traced back to 2009 after the H1N1 swine flu pandemic,. The Obama administration was advised to replenish a national stockpile but did not.
We’re not saying that, Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times are saying that.
The Trump administration is scrambling to replenish a stockpile of protective medical gear for healthcare workers and patients as the coronavirus sweeps across the nation. N95 respirator masks are one of the most needed medical supplies amid the outbreak.
The George W. Bush administration published the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza plan in 2005, which called on the federal government to distribute medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile governed by the Health and Human Services Department in the event of an outbreak.
In 2009, the H1N1 outbreak hit the United States, and it depleted supplies of masks and ventilators.
The LA Times reports that a federally-backed task force recommended the Obama administration replenish the supply with the 100 million masks used after the H1N1 outbreak.
Charles Johnson, president of the International Safety Equipment Association, said that advice was never heeded.
“Our association is unaware of any major effort to restore the stockpile to cover that drawdown,” he said.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar reported last month that only 12 million N95 masks were available in the stockpile, “a tiny fraction of the 3.5 billion masks one of Azar’s deputies later testified the nation’s healthcare system would need,” the Los Angeles Times noted.
Bloomberg News reported similar findings stating, “After the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009, which triggered a nationwide shortage of masks and caused a 2- to 3-year backlog [of] orders for the N95 variety, the stockpile distributed about three-quarters of its inventory and didn’t build back the supply.”
Bloomberg reported that the Trump administration had asked construction companies to “donate their inventory of N95 masks to your local hospital and forgo additional orders of those industrial masks.” The Defense Department would provide 5 million N95 masks and 2,000 ventilators to help bridge the gap.