March 19, 2020

Mass. Lawmakers Seek Update from HHS on Commonwealth's Request for Personal Protective Equipment from Strategic National Stockpile

Massachusetts Hospitals Anticipating Shortages of Equipment Needed to Protect Frontline Workers from COVID-19

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), along with Representatives Richard E. Neal (D-MA-01), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA-08), William Keating (D-MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting an update on the status of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's (MDPH) request for personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).

"Health care providers in the Commonwealth have been working around the clock to meet the urgent demands of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency," the lawmakers wrote. "We urge you to grant the request without delay."

On March 5, 2020, MDPH requested protective equipment from the SNS to help them combat COVID-19 outbreaks in the state. Specifically, they requested 750,000 each of N95 Respirator Face Masks, Surgical Masks, Non-Sterile Gloves, Eye Protection, Powered Air Purifying Respirators, and Surgical Gowns. However, according to state officials, the state has only received roughly 10% of the supplies they have requested.

Since the request was submitted, the Commonwealth has declared a state of emergency, and the number of confirmed cases has ballooned to over 200, with hundreds more under quarantine. As these cases climb, Massachusetts hospitals, community health centers, and other facilities are facing or are imminently anticipating shortages of personal protective equipment needed to ensure that frontline workers do not risk infection or contribute to the spread of COVID-19, with some hospitals resorting to reusing N95 respirator masks in order to conserve their limited supplies. 

The lawmakers asked HHS to provide an update on MDPH's request and asked the agency a series of questions regarding extra resources for states who are experiencing shortages of protective equipment.

"Protecting our frontline health care workers by providing personal protective equipment must be a top public health priority," the lawmakers continued.

Senator Warren stressed the importance of getting health professionals these needed supplies earlier today:

Senator Warren: "I'm working hard along with others to push enough federal money out there so that our hospitals at least have the resources to be able to get the supplies they need, and to make sure that the CDC and other public health officials can do what they can. Commandeer resources, bring those resources in so that people have masks, so that people have protective gear. My focus and my concern is actually on supporting the scientists and the doctors. I'm very worried about the fact that our health care professionals are not fully protected, that they don't have the protective gear that they need, because they're putting their lives on the line. They're the -- they are our front lines, and when our nurses get sick, when our doctors get sick, when the other supporting health care professionals get sick, that has effects on all of us. So I think we need an intense focus on making sure they get what they need."

Senator Warren has called for a $750 billion economic stimulus package that would focus on recovery from the grassroots up, not Wall Street down. Such a package would apply lessons from the 2008 bailout and provide direct help to families harmed by the coronavirus outbreak, including universal paid leave, increasing Social Security benefits by $200 a month, broad cancellation of student loan debt, and protecting and expanding affordable housing.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Warren has worked to ensure that the Trump Administration is effectively responding to the outbreak and that the U.S. has the resources needed to address this threat. Her ongoing efforts include urging Vice President Pence to take swift, specific action to support Massachusetts and other states as they combat the spread of COVID-19; introducing legislation that would generate an estimated $10 billion in funding for coronavirus efforts by shifting funding from President Trump's border wall; urging the Trump Administration and the largest trade associations for landlords to suspend evictions for renters during the pandemic; calling on President Trump to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to convert or construct new temporary medical facilities nationwide; and asking the CEOs of the U.S.-based "Too Big to Fail" banks how they are preparing to mitigate the economic risks of the outbreak.