Governor Hutchinson and the state Department of Health announced at yesterday’s COVID-19 update that the state will receive only a quarter of personal protective equipment it had requested from the national stockpile, representing 0.92 of the gear distributed to the states. He noted that the Trump administration has said that after the stockpile delivery, “we are on our own” to find more.
Arkansas hospitals and medics are facing a potential crisis if the state cannot quickly find no other sources for bulk orders of PPE; the governor noted the competition the state is up against, given that others in need — including New York, which is suffering a huge outbreak of virus — have said they’ll pay a premium from private suppliers. Hutchinson said the state is “looking internationally” for supplies and working with FEMA to release more of the stockpile.
Pro Publica has a story on what might appear to be an unequal level of distribution. Florida got everything it requested, for example. But federal officials say the distribution is related to need and population:
While it may appear like the federal government is playing favorites, federal officials said their decisions were based on their best assessment of relative needs. HHS told states this week that it is giving out 25% of the stockpile to states according to population size, and sending another 25% strategically to states with the most severe outbreaks, which can be used for needs such as testing passengers on cruise ships brought back to shore. The remaining 50% will be held in “strategic reserve,” to be used if there’s a huge spike of critical needs around the country.
Here’s what the state has gotten from the stockpile:
• 27,880 N95 masks. These are fitted masks that offer more protection than surgical masks. They are disposable; yesterday, Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said there’s some interest in seeing if they can be reused if covered with other masks.
• 66,500 surgical/face masks.
• 12,576 face shields.
• 9,534 gowns.
• 52,800 gloves.
• 48 coveralls
At yesterday’s press conference, the governor described the amount as 25 percent of what was requested; a health department spokesman said today the 25 percent referred to the overall state figure. Hutchinson is having a press conference a 2:30 p.m. today at the Capitol, where we can get that straightened out.
UPDATE: The governor confirmed today that it was 25 percent of the state’s request that was OK’d; the state expects to get another 25 percent from the stockpile, he said. Procurement officers have located an overseas supplier of personal protective gear, but Hutchinson said he would not reveal what the state would pay for that equipment to avoid being underbid. Supplies from the government stockpile are free.