The Big Picture
An update on the number of cases and deaths from coronavirus: The United States, with the most daily cases in the world, is just short of 10.85 million cases as of Sunday night and more than 244,000 people have died from the disease. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa are seeing the highest case rates. With another 184,000 confirmed cases being added to the Johns Hopkins database, Friday, November 13 marked the fourth consecutive day the United States set a record for daily cases. Many experts warn this surge could be more fatal than the one we saw in spring, indicating daily deaths could surpass the record-setting 2,200 daily deaths in April.
President-Elect’s COVID-19 Plan
President-elect Joe Biden has started meeting with his coronavirus task force and has explained his COVID-19 plan of action on his transitional website. His plan aims to tackle the PPE shortages by:
- Instruct the CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide greater access to supply chain information, which includes the “availability, allocation, and shipping,” and greater access to places where there are federal reserves. Use the Strategic National Stockpile to “supplement any shortages that exist, especially for essential medical supplies like oxygen, ventilators, and personal protective equipment.”
- “Give all frontline workers high-quality and appropriate personal protective equipment.” Make sure frontline workers are given prioritized access to PPE, and create an awareness campaign to educate the public on which types of PPE should be reserved for frontline workers.
- “Work with businesses to expand production of personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, and additional products such as bleach and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.” Incentivize businesses and suppliers to produce PPE, potentially “removing all relevant trade barriers” and conducting “large scale volume purchasing.”
- Encourage the creation of unions, as they can “provide better training for personal protective equipment.”
Strategic National Stockpile
Experts have been warning for months of a surge of COVID cases in the fall and winter seasons. As schools start, people move indoors and the holidays arrive, a rise in coronavirus cases is expected. However, the United States’ Strategic National Stockpile is millions short of obtaining their projected PPE supplies. Currently, the National Strategic Stockpile has 115 million N95 masks—not even half the 300 million they were hoping to source before winter. The lack of a federal response has forced hospitals and facilities to fight for their own PPE. The competition among states and care facilities has placed significant stress on the supply chain, making it difficult to stockpile highly demanded equipment like N95 masks. This comes as shortages and cases rise in rural hospitals and private practices. Dr. Shikha Gupta, executive director of Get Us PPE, stated that 70% of the incoming requests from facilities that Get Us PPE has received report being “completely out” of at least one type of PPE, the most common being masks, gloves, and disinfecting wipes. These shortages come as states and large hospitals are once again competing for what little equipment they can find.
This Week at Get Us PPE
Dr. Esther Choo and Dr. Megan Ranney, co-founders of Get Us PPE, spoke with The Atlantic regarding the toll COVID-19 is taking on healthcare workers. Dr. Choo discusses the differences between small clinics and large hospitals, explaining that a third of small clinics, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities are “completely out of at least one type of PPE.” Furthermore, she warns patients with non-COVID-related medical problems are becoming sicker than normal, stating, “Even the simplest patients aren’t simple.” The Atlantic wrote a striking anecdote about Dr. Ranney’s experience treating COVID-19 patients:
“On Saturday morning, Megan Ranney was about to put on her scrubs when she heard that Joe Biden had won the presidential election. That day, she treated people with COVID-19 while street parties erupted around the country. She was still in the ER in the late evening when Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris made their victory speeches. These days, her shifts at Rhode Island Hospital are long, and they “are not going to change in the next 73 days,” before Biden becomes president, she told me on Monday. Every time Ranney returns to the hospital, there are more COVID-19 patients.”
Dr. Megan Ranney spoke with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room about the severity of the current PPE shortages. She says, “we’re not in a good place right now.” With Get Us PPE seeing an increase in PPE requests, “even larger hospitals are outfitting their emergency workers with molded personal protective equipment because they know they’re going to run out of those N-95s.” Dr. Ranney explains that in addition to masks, there are still shortages in gowns, gloves, and hand sanitizer.