Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday urged construction firms to donate specialized N95 masks to their local hospitals as the government tries to head off a rush of demand for equipment to protect doctors and nurses from the coronavirus outbreak.
Pence made the plea at a televised press conference along with President Trump and top government health officials, amid a nationwide shortage of equipment.
Trump said he has started the process of having the U.S. Army Corps of engineers construct field hospitals to boost the volume of hospitals beds. ‘We are starting the process,’ he said. He said they would be M.A.S.H. hospitals, or United States Army Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals.
President Trump spoke about deploying the Army Corps of Engineers to build hospitals and Mike Pence called for construction firms to donate specialized masks
‘They do call them M.A.S.H. hospitals,’ Trump said. ‘We’re looking at different sites in a few different locations.’ New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a request for assistance, which Trump said would be provided.
State and local governments are preparing for an onslaught of hospital patients as the coronavirus outbreak spreads – with the national stockpile also not up to the anticipated demand.
‘We would urge construction companies to donate their N95 masks to your local hospital and for go additional order of those industrial masks,’ Pence said.
‘Those industrial masks are perfectly acceptable for healthcare workers to be protected from a respiratory disease,’ Pence said. He pointed to the industry, which he said Trump knows well’ from his real estate background.
He also asked construction firms to forego additional orders of the specialized masks, which can both protect medical professionals and keep infected patients from spreading the virus.
Pence’s appeal came as federal officials have told doctors and health workers the nation’s stockpile doesn’t have enough basic medical equipment like masks and gowns to meet the expected crush of coronavirus cases.
The stark assessment, conveyed in a conference call Monday, comes as the Health Department has begun distributing supplies a national stockpile created for such health emergencies. But the administration is acknowledging the supply is ‘finite’ and sending the equipment out to priority areas and based on a population formula.
With a looming shortage of beds that public officials fear could fall well short of demand in an outbreak, the White House is even considering the use of hospital ships, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx said. The problem: the Navy only has two of them, and they can’t get inland.
Vice President Mike Pence (l) announced the call for masks
A man displays a protective N-95 face mask and goggles, at an office in Washington, DC. The masks are vital to protecting medical professionals
Pence wants construction firms with excess supply to donate their masks
A nurse emerges from a tent with a kit to test for novel coronavirus COVID-19 at a drive through testing station for University of Washington Medical Center employees in Seattle, Washington, USA, 16 March 2020. The federal government is shipping equipment from a national stockpile to meet needs
‘The president is considering all of the options. We’re looking at hospital beds, ICU beds, informed by the data from Seattle and Santa Clara, and I just really want to thank the governors and the health commissioners from those states who are providing us the on-the-ground daily reports of hospital utilizations,’ Birx told Fox News.
‘There are multiple options in our reserve, including the V.A. Hospitals, Department of Defense medical treatment facilities and even hospital ships. There are a lot of things to consider and all of those things are on the table right now,’ she said.
In New York state, 19 per cent of positive coronavirus cases are being hospitalized, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a televised briefing from Albany, in a state where cases continue to spike.
Adding to the need are infections that have been identified among medical professionals serving on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.
The White House is considering using hospital ships to meet demand, says coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx
Steve Moody, director of nursing at Central Maine Medical Center, enters a tent outside the emergency entrance to the hospital to test patients who have symptoms of the coronavirus, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Lewiston, Maine. U.S. hospitals are setting up circus-like triage tents, calling doctors out of retirement, guarding their supplies of face masks and making plans to cancel elective surgery as they brace for an expected onslaught of coronavirus patients
In a Friday, March 13, 2020 file photo, Steve Moody, director of nursing at Central Maine Medical Center, mops the floor of a tent outside the emergency entrance to the hospital where patients are tested for of the coronavirus, in Lewiston, Maine
An auxiliary tent stands outside the entrance to the emergency department at EvergreenHealth Medical Center, where an emergency department doctor is reportedly in critical condition with coronavirus (COVID-19) according to local media, in Kirkland, Washington, U.S., March 15, 2020
‘It is essential that the federal govt works with this state and that this state works with the federal government. We cannot do this on our own,’ he said.
On Sunday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar refused to say how many ventilators the government had and now many were projected to be needed, calling it a ‘national security issue.’ The following day, the administration announced recommendations that Americans not gather in groups of more than ten people and stick to their homes.
HHS officials communicated the information to medical professionals in a conference call Monday, CNN reported, and said the nation’s stockpile was insufficient to meet needs. The representatives from the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness Reponses said the government had not yet identified a solution.
Congress is trying to deal with the problem with new purchases, but it is not yet clear how quickly it will be possible to get equipment online.
According to a statement released by HHS Tuesday, ‘Because of the finite supply of PPE in the commercial supply chain, delivery of products from the SNS is prioritized based on need.’
Equipment goes out to all 50 states, 8 territories, plus urban areas including Chicago, Los Angeles County, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
‘The distribution is based on a pro-rata formula that is proportionate to the population size of each jurisdiction based on 2010 U.S. Census data. For areas facing high transmission rates, additional allocations are available,’ according to the agency.