WASHINGTON — As Pennsylvania braces for the worst of the coronavirus to hit, state officials have requested 494,392 N95 medical masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to protect frontline medical workers.
To date the state has received less than a quarter of that amount — 112,250.
State officials have been told that more are on the way, but even once those arrive, they’ll be more than 261,000 masks short of what they’ve asked for, according to FEMA data and the state’s Health Department. The medical-grade masks block particles and are critical for health-care workers treating coronavirus patients.
It’s a similar story with some other vital equipment, according to FEMA figures released Thursday by Democrats who run the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee. As of Monday Pennsylvania had received 216,621 fewer pairs of gloves and nearly 55,500 fewer surgical gowns than it has requested, according to the information House Democrats received from FEMA.
Though it wasn’t included in the data released Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf has said the state is also seeking an additional 1,000 to 1,400 ventilators.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is on track to have a surplus of face shields and surgical masks. It has already received much of what it asked for, including more face shields than requested, yet additional supplies of both are en route, according to FEMA figures and the state Department of Health. In each case, the state would end up with tens of thousands more than requested — including an extra 62,435 face shields, while governors in other states are struggling to obtain supplies.
In neighboring New Jersey, for example, Gov. Phil Murphy has said the state was still seeking 864,000 more face shields, along with other items.
The numbers add to the concerns that the federal response to the pandemic has been scattershot and disorganized. Many of the early shipments have been based on population size, not state requests, said Nate Wardle, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Health Department.
Democrats blasted the shortfalls.
“The new documents we are releasing today confirm the urgent warnings we have been hearing from our nation’s governors and health care professionals for weeks — they do not have enough personal protective equipment and medical supplies, and the Administration has provided only a tiny fraction of what they desperately need," said a statement from Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.), chair of the oversight panel. “Rather than casting doubt on the gravity of this pandemic, the Administration should have been working around the clock to prepare and execute plans to obtain desperately needed personal protective equipment and medical supplies.”
Governors facing the growing wave of coronavirus cases have complained that they are bidding against one another for the same items, rather than having the federal government acquire equipment and distribute it as needed.
FEMA did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Earlier, however, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the Federal Government. Some have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?). Remember, we are a backup for them. The complainers should ... have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit. Other states are thrilled with the job we have done.”
House Democrats released data Thursday from the FEMA region that includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Their information also shows that in many instances Pennsylvania has requested far less than its neighbors. Wardle, of the Health Department, said the state already had a stockpile of some supplies.