Coronavirus: PPE shortages expected to continue

June 11, 2020

An internal FEMA document shows that reuse of N95 masks and medical gown is expected to continue.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expects shortages of some personal protective equipment (PPE) even as they expect domestic production to increase.

In a slideshow meant for internal use but released by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., after a June 9 hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the agency said that a portion of the nation’s N95 masks will still need to be reused into October, despite a belief that domestic production growth to hit 180 million in the winter. This figure does not include commercial donations or state-bought masks.

A key component of the reusable mask production is based on the Battelle decontamination method and the projected production of Battelle.

The number of masks that must be reused those being imported are expected to drop as domestic production ramps up, but the agency also assumes that demand for the masks will plateau beginning in July. It is not known whether FEMA considered the increasing possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 striking due to states reopening, according to the slideshow.

The outlook seems even more grim for medical gowns. It seems the agency is counting on reusable gowns to pick up much of the slack of U.S. production, which the agency expects to remain steady through July. The reusable gowns are expected to make up more than half of the supply of gowns beginning in June, the slideshow says.

When it comes to nitrile gloves, the country is left to the whims of foreign countries as there are no domestic producers. In fact, the supply of gloves dipped in April due to “challenges in overseas manufacturing,” according to the slideshow.

The lack of PPE has been a constant refrain from healthcare professionals on the frontlines of the pandemic as many have been forced to make masks at home, wear trash bags instead of medical gowns, and craft their own face shields from household refuse.