Data from PPE Shortage Index shows critical need for personal protective equipment in U.S.
Key takeaways from data in the latest Get Us PPE Shortage Index
In February 2021, requests for PPE decreased for the first time since September 2020, falling by 52%. However, frontline workers in 44 states reported they are still experiencing shortages of necessary protective equipment.
35% of frontline workers requesting N95 masks in February 2021 reported that their facility had no supply remaining — up from 28% in January.
Nonprofit and community organizations made more PPE requests than any other type of facility, with 17% of total February requests. Schools accounted for 16% of PPE requests.
The previous administration only systematically collected data on PPE shortages in hospitals, leaving Get Us PPE to build the most comprehensive national database of shortages in other frontline facilities — many of which still do not have enough PPE.
The PPE shortage crisis has morphed into a supply-demand mismatch problem. Although domestic supply of PPE has increased over recent weeks, many small and under-resourced frontline facilities still cannot identify legitimate PPE sources or afford the new PPE on the market.
Get Us PPE has received over 21,000 requests for personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves, and isolation gowns. This data helps our nonprofit equitably provide donated PPE to people and organizations with greatest need.
Why is the United States still experiencing a PPE shortage?
PPE is still needed to prevent COVID spread. Vaccine rollout will take several more months, and COVID-vulnerable populations, under-resourced communities, and frontline workers must remain protected. Vaccinated healthcare workers still need adequate medical-grade PPE as an extra layer of protection as well. COVID vaccines have proven incredibly effective, but masking still saves lives.
The data below, primarily from January 2021 and previous months, shows the evolution of the PPE shortage through the beginning of this year. For the most updated data, please download our February 2021 PPE Shortage Index.
1. Most PPE on the market is not NIOSH/FDA approved.
2. Medical-grade PPE is difficult to distinguish from the many counterfeits on the market.
3. Many suppliers have high minimum order quantities, leaving smaller facilities without a source of supply.
4. Some suppliers require advance payment, but there is no guarantee that PPE will actually be delivered or meet quality standards.
5. Nitrile gloves, the second most requested type of PPE, are experiencing an ongoing global shortage.
This map displays a breakdown by state showing where the 20,845+ PPE requests have come from from March 2020 to January 2021. Get Us PPE has received requests for PPE from all 50 states and some US territories.
different states + Washington, D.C. requested PPE in February 2021
Non-hospital facilities are still facing acute PPE shortages
The Get Us PPE Shortage Index indicates small non-hospital facilities have extreme need for personal protective equipment.
*Such facilities include nursing homes, home health aide agencies, clinics, group homes, shelters, and COVID-testing facilities. Data has been updated to reflect improvements to our methodology for categorizing facilities.
Many types of facilities requested PPE in February 2021
Many types of facilities urgently need PPE, yet the previous administration only collected data about PPE needs in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Our outreach efforts impact this data. In particular, an email sent to a listserv of school nurses encouraging them to request PPE increased the percentage of requests from schools.
Top 3 most requested PPE items
Price increases for N95 Masks and Nitrile Gloves are significant
* According to a Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals report
** For individual/small batch orders; bulk orders often have lower unit prices
Time until facilities requesting N95 Masks and Nitrile Gloves run out of supply
The N95 Shortage
In the United States, there are still not enough N95 respirators to keep healthcare workers safe.
of facilities needed N95 masks last month
of the facilities that requested N95s had no supply remaining
CASE STUDY: During COVID-19, an emergency physician ideally needs one N95 per patient per day to prevent spread. Here was her reality in winter 2020-21.
Among the healthcare providers we spoke with about N95 shortages, the emergency physician in our case study should be using about 70 N95s per day. She has just one N95 per week.
N95 masks per day are ideal for the emergency physician in our case study
N95 mask per WEEK is what she has
She told us that other emergency healthcare workers she knows get one N95 per month. As of February 2021, many hospitals are still rationing N95s, often supplying one per week.
Why can’t healthcare workers reuse N95 masks?
- In medical settings, filtering facepiece respirators (N95s) are “fit tested” to ensure they fully seal to the face to keep infectious particles out.
- A significant percentage of N95s fail fit tests after four or five “donnings” and “doffings”.
- However, this evidence is based on studies in which participants wore N95s for just five and forty minutes.
- When N95s are decontaminated between uses, the filtration performance drops sharply after the second decontamination.
- Many healthcare workers today are reusing N95s more than five times, and wearing them for up to 12-hour shifts.
- As of late September, more than 1,700 healthcare workers in the U.S. had died of COVID-19.
Schools and school nurses face PPE shortages nationwide
Due to high demand for PPE, supplies in schools are dangerously low. Many types of personal protective equipment are needed for schools to be safely open.
“Our school PPE supply is so sparse, I started stapling my mask together to keep it longer. I feel safer at Trader Joe’s than I do at school. They take more precautions.”
— Certified School Nurse (anonymous)
As part of our PPE for Schools initiative, Get Us PPE continues reaching out to school nurses, teachers, and administrators. The following data is drawn from responses to an ongoing Get Us PPE survey about PPE needs in schools. The survey responses received thus far represent a sample of schools facing PPE shortages nationwide. Preliminary results are concerning. Current PPE sources and funds are temporary, and schools have high PPE burn rates.
TYPES OF PPE NEEDED BY SCHOOLS
SCHOOL TYPES REPRESENTED
“School nurses are frontline workers and we are no further in obtaining PPE than traditional frontline workers were back in March. I feel very stuck, unprotected, and uncared for as a person and as a healthcare professional. PPE is disposable, our lives are not!”
— Certified School Nurse, PA
“We have run out of resources and need immediate access to appropriate PPE. The fact that the majority of our network schools are on the South and West Sides of Chicago, which have been hit hardest by the pandemic, heightens this need.”
— Andrew Broy, Leader of the IL Charter School Network
“We donated what PPE we had to our local frontline healthcare workers when school was closed in March. Here it is, October, and we are still having a difficult time finding needed PPE for our campus school nurses.”
— Katrina Weber, Lead Nurse, TX
“School Nurses are the hidden healthcare system. We have received some PPE but not nearly enough. We need supplies like the hospitals and other healthcare settings.”
— Lisa Morrison, Lead Nurse, GA
Long-term care facilities are severely impacted by PPE shortages
Get Us PPE receives numerous requests from nursing homes, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities. The data below is a snapshot of those requests from August through October.
of all requests were from long-term care facilities
offer low or no-cost services
had no supply remaining of at least one type of PPE
had no supply remaining ofat least one type of PPE and had at least one confirmed COVID case
“This is the silent tragedy of the pandemic—not only that so many lives are being lost, but that we could be doing something to save them. We need to get PPE to our most vulnerable communities.”
— Megan Ranney, MD, Get Us PPE Co-Founder
Get Us PPE helps vulnerable populations
There is a significant need for personal protective equipment in rural communities, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and other vulnerable populations. We solicit donated PPE then distribute it according to our equity framework to those who have submitted PPE requests. This ensures we deliver PPE where it is most needed.
“ We are a small community hospital where resources are thin and we are in for a long battle ahead. Our patients are low income, uninsured or underinsured and we cannot cut off their access to care.”
“ Our clinic remains open as we are serving refugees and immigrants who have no access to telehealth.”
“ We are a freestanding respiratory clinic in a small town testing for COVID-19 in this area. There are 4 of us working here 9-10 hours /day 5 days/week. We have very few supplies and are reusing supplies until they are unusable.”
Get Us PPE Contributors Map
Last updated April 19, 2020. View on a desktop for best experience.
Trust the data scientists at Get Us PPE for accurate information on the PPE shortage
Download PDFs of each month’s Get Us PPE Shortage Index for a complete overview.