Only 3,200 of a predicted 100,000 new ventilators meant to treat COVID-19 patients will be ready by the time the US outbreak peaks, according to a summary of two FEMA briefings published this week.
The forecast was published this week by the House Oversight Committee, which made public a summary of earlier briefings from officials at FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The documents said that the 100,000 ventilators are coming, but that “most” of them will not arrive until late June at the earliest. They summarised a briefing made on Sunday March 30, but not made public until April 2.
In the time period where the virus is expected to be hitting the US hardest — the week commencing April 13 — there will only be 3,200 available, according to the House documents.
President Donald Trump announced the 100,000 new ventilators on March 27, saying they would come “within the next 100 days” — which equates to early July. He did not give a sense of when in the 100-day span they might come.
In a press release accompanying the documents, a statement from the committee said: “Unfortunately, President Trump spent months downplaying the coronavirus crisis and wasting precious time,” adding that Trump’s administration “should have been working around the clock” to get supplies.
At a second briefing, on April 1, FEMA officials also said medical workers should re-use protective equipment — which is meant to be disposable — because of dire shortages.
A doctor wearing protective garments.
Getty Images/John Moore
In recommending the re-use of PPE, FEMA “acknowledged that reusing this equipment increases the risk that health care providers will be infected with coronavirus, but asserted that this step is “critical” given current shortages,” said the committee.
On Thursday, the Oversight Committee also released documents for six states in FEMA’s Region III — states around the mid-Atlantic region — revealing they have been given hardly any of their requests for equipment and PPE.
Delaware, for example, has requested 1.7 million surgical masks with face shields, but has received none, according to the document. The District of Columbia has not received the 20 ventilators it requested.