Mar 27, 2020 - Health

Cities face severe supply shortages amid coronavirus outbreak

Nurses in masks, goggles, gloves, and protective gowns, wait stand outside the yellow tent
Nurses in masks, goggles, gloves, and protective gowns stand outside a yellow tent as they wait for their next patient in Bern Township, Penn., where they are conducting drive through coronavirus testing. Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images.

First responders and health care workers are dealing with massive shortages of critical supplies such as face masks, personal protective equipment, ventilators and test kits, according to a survey of 213 cities from 41 states and Puerto Rico.

Why it matters: The shortages of critical supplies have reached "crisis proportions" and are putting at risk the lives of residents and front-line medical workers across the country, per the survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The big picture: Congress on Friday approved the $2 trillion stimulus package that includes $150 billion for state and local governments. That's $100 billion short of what the U.S. Conference of Mayors requested from Congress. There's also concern that the money will not be allocated to the lower levels of government fast enough to ease these shortages.

By the numbers:

  • Nearly 92% of cities do not have adequate supply of face masks for first responders and medical workers.
  • 88% don't have enough personal protective equipment such as head covers, goggles, disposable aprons and gloves.
  • 92% don't have enough test kits
  • 85% don't have enough ventilators for the use of health facilities
  • 64% of cities say they have not received emergency equipment or supplies from their state government, and of those that have gotten state help, about 85% say it's not enough to meet their needs.

What's needed: Cities were asked to estimate their needs of these supplies. From the cities that were able to provide estimates, the overall needs are 28.5 million face masks, 24.4 million personal protective gear items, 7.9 million test kits and 139,000 ventilators.

About 40 cities reported having adequate supplies of emergency equipment, and the majority of these cities said their supplies were already on hand when the crisis began. Still, many reported having to supplement these supplies through other sources like hospitals or private vendors.

  • Montgomery, Alabama said it received a delivery of expired masks approved by the CDC and FDA, but 28 cases (5,880 masks) were dry rotted.

Go deeper: Cities brace for fiscal blow

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