Who owns the largest stockpile of surgical masks?

The stockpile of N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment have long been under attack. Individuals and healthcare professionals are not always keen on stockpiling when the need is at its highest. 

In this article, let us look at the current state of the stockpile of N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment that the United States holds and the current need of its population.

Stockpiling In The United States 

The United States currently holds the record when it comes to having the largest stockpile of N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment. There have been a lot of questions and issues about the fact that the United States administration under President Trump is currently stockpiling the N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment  when in fact the need is even greater nowadays.

The United States started stockpiling at a rate of 10 times the current need last March 2020 or around the time that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic. While it is true, the administration is saying that this was a plan that had already been created and a device long before the declaration of the pandemic. As such, individuals should no longer be surprised that the decision of the administration is to continue stockpiling.

Shortages Are Real

The big issue of the shortages will not be considered as an issue or a problem if there is no need for the N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment. While the government is currently trying to work on the needs of healthcare professionals and healthcare express based on the best of their ability, it is clear that the need is still greater than what the government and most of the manufactures can provide.

The sudden emergence of the virus, not just in the United States, but in China had cost a lot of problems to the supply of N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment. This is primarily because most of the supplies of surgical masks all over the world is supplied by China-based manufacturers. There are only a few manufacturers of surgical masks that are based in the United States at the time.

This problem in the supply chain cost a lot of manufacturers that are based in the United States to revisit their production and to try and produce surgical masks alongside the strictly certified N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment. 

According to Amanda Forster, a spokeswoman for hospital supply-purchasing group Premier Inc, “manufacturers have expanded production and overseas trade has somewhat resumed, but the demand is still higher compared to the supply”. The urgent need for N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment is more obvious now than a few months ago and stockpiling is not helping in any way.

Competing States

Given the current situation and the dire need for more N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment, State governments are now competing against each other in order to get priority from the stockpile as well as from the orders of the health department.

Of course, this meant that prioritizing and strategically rationing the N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment meant putting focus on the states that have a higher number of infections. The rule is to be that the higher the number of infections in the current state, the higher the priority of the federal government to produce N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment for that specific State’s needs.

In the State of Colorado, for example, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that: “We actually have a team of procurement specialists that just comb the globe for opportunities for the state to purchase PPE supplies, part of what is driving this is some of the other states just have such a large case count right now.”

The Dire Need Is Still Present

The dire need for N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment is still present. Around 87% of the hospital nurses have had to use at least one type of N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment. This meant that they had to undergo the process of decontamination and reuse for more than the recommended manufacturer limit of one time use.

In the State of Florida, nurses are being required to wear the same N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment for a period of one week or more depending on the surge. 

In Southern California, the problem is not just limited to N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment but also includes the lack of staff among others. 

The Stockpile Is Necessary

One thing that this pandemic has taught the administration and should teach a lot of homes is the fact that there is a need to have your own stockpile not just at a federal government level or at the state level but also at the level of individual homes. Once this pandemic ends, and it will, it is incumbent upon homeowners and families to create their own stocks of N95 masks, N95 respirators, surgical masks and personal protective equipment. It is always easier to have an excess of one thing than to have no supply of the same thing.

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