When an announcement was made in January about the possibility of an outbreak in China to turn into a pandemic, the Trump administration could have used this information to reinforce the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.
However, when The Associated Press reviewed federal purchase contracts, it showed that the agencies waited until mid-March to start procuring bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other necessary equipment for the front-line health care workers.
During those times, hospitals across the country have been treating thousands of infected patients while lacking adequate equipment and had pleaded for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile.
The federal stockpile was made more than 20 years ago to bridge gaps in both the medical and pharmaceutical supply chains in the event of national emergencies.
At the moment, the national stockpile is about to be drained while the number of patients needing critical care continues to rise.
Local officials have been reporting to have received broken ventilators and dry-rotted masks.
According to Kathleen Sebelius, health and human services secretary during the Obama administration, “We basically wasted two months.”
U.S. officials could have foreseen that the country may be affected by the outbreak as early as mid-January, similar to how China’s Hubei province where overwhelmed with infected patients, as well as how Italy’s hospitals scrambled for doctors, beds and equipment.
When asked about why federal officials waited to order medical supplies, the HHS did not respond.
However, President Donald Trump assured that the federal government should back down when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.
During a White House briefing, the President’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner said, “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile.”
“It’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.”