With the federal stockpile drained of protective gear, states are turning to each other, private industries and anyone who can donate in a desperate bid to get respirators, gloves and other supplies to doctors, nurses and other front-line workers.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Wednesday that the federal cupboard is officially bare at least through this month after it was able to fulfill just a sliver of states’ requests.
The development is not a complete surprise. Last month, President Donald Trump told governors to take care of their own needs. States said they were trying but that bidding in a global marketplace for the supplies was highly competitive and expensive, pitting states against each other, their own hospital systems and other countries, including the U.S. government.
States also have begun working together, whether its forming regional alliances to create greater purchasing power or sending excess supplies to hot spots.
This comes at a time when a staggering 16.8 million Americans have been thrown onto the unemployment rolls in just three weeks, underscoring the terrifying speed with which the coronavirus outbreak has brought world economies to a near standstill.
Meanwhile, a spike in deaths in Britain and New York and surges of reported new infections in Japan and India’s congested cities make it clear that the struggle is far from over.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care, where he was treated for three days with COVID-19, his office said Thursday.
In other developments today:
- The coronavirus pandemic will push the global economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression, with the world’s poorest countries suffering the most, the head of the International Monetary Fund said Thursday.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to bolster mail-in voting and take other steps to make balloting easier this November as Congress starts planning its next major bill to reinforce the economy and battle the coronavirus.
- About a half billion people could be pushed into poverty as a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic unless richer countries take “urgent action” to help developing nations, a leading aid organization warned Thursday. Oxfam has urged richer countries to step up their efforts to help the developing world or risk setting back the fight against poverty by a decade and by as much as 30 years in some areas, including Africa and the Middle East.
- The U.S. Strategic National Stockpile’s supply of N95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, gowns and other essential items desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients is nearly depleted. Documents show that about 90% of all the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments, with the remaining 10% held back for federal workers.
- The number of Americans getting on airplanes has sunk to a level not seen in more than 60 years as people shelter in their homes to avoid catching or spreading the new coronavirus. One analyst estimated that air travel demand won’t return to pre-outbreak levels until the middle of next year under the best outcome, and it’s likely to be later.
- At the holiest time of year for Christians, churches are wrestling with how to hold services amid the coronavirus outbreak, and in some cases, that has set up showdowns with local governments over restrictions that forbid large gatherings.
- Each day brings the United States closer to peak severe weather season, and Tornado Alley residents are faced with a question: Is it better to take on a twister outside a community shelter or to face the possibility of contracting the new coronavirus inside one?
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