By Unnati Gupta, a blog writer at GetUsPPE.org.
The Big Picture
An update on the numbers: the United States now has over 4.33 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 149,000 total deaths. The troubling data has pushed 30 states to mandate masks. Recently, governors in Minnesota, Ohio, and Indiana enacted mask-mandates in hopes of allowing businesses and schools to reopen.
While some states are just beginning to mandate masks, California, the first state to order a lockdown, is facing severe consequences from reopening. Recently, California passed New York in total confirmed cases, reaching 417,000 coronavirus cases. A variety of factors have contributed to this development, including increases in testing and resistance of mask mandates. New York remains one of the hardest-hit states, with 32,228 deaths, far beyond the 7,900 deaths in California.
National Stockpile Running Low on PPE
These case spikes and mask mandates came with some frightening news about PPE shortages from Health and Human Services Department documents obtained by NBC News. Reports show that the current national stockpile is running low on essential PPE such as gloves and goggles. Testimonies from hospitals and new data shows that the federal government is not meeting demands from states and healthcare facilities around the country.
Specifically, the Strategic National Stockpile and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have only 900,000 gloves left, and NBC News reports that their previous shipment of 82.7 million gloves met only 30% of requests. Further, only 29% of goggles requests have been met, with 4.9 million goggles requested and only 329,000 left in the stockpile.
These shortages have alarmed nursing homes, facilities currently facing some of the largest PPE deficits. As of last week, almost 20% of nursing homes have reported having little to no PPE left, yet FEMA has excluded nursing homes from N-95 shipments. Healthcare workers are once again speaking out on the lack of masks and gowns in healthcare settings. Calls for PPE that were loudest in April are resurfacing, as nurses around the country speak out once again about having to reuse N-95 masks for over a week.
Hope for a Vaccine
However, there is hopeful news. On Wednesday, July 22nd, the United States government created a $2 billion contract with Pfizer and a small German manufacturer, BioNTech, to receive 100 million doses of the potential coronavirus vaccine. This decision is a risky one, as the vaccine has not yet proven to be effective. In order for the deal to be successful, the vaccine will need to first prove reliable during human trials, then get emergency approval by the FDA. However, if all goes well, Americans will be able to receive the vaccine for free. Large-scale trials taking place this month will have around 30,000 people, and in order for the vaccine to be approved by the FDA, these trials must prove that the vaccine creates immunity for 50% of the people who receive it.
This Week at GetUsPPE
The national spike in cases has been felt at GetUsPPE. States such as Arizona, Florida, California, and New York have seen significant increases in demand for PPE, with California showing an astronomical 224% increase in PPE requests.
Dr. Ali Raja, co-founder of GetUsPPE, discussed the reasons for 200% increases in requests from Arizona, Texas, and Florida. GetUsPPE has received an overwhelming number of requests, and we have been able to fulfill 13,000 thus far: only 10% of the total request orders. Further, the combined effects of our own outreach and a spike in cases has led to a 200% increase in the number of PPE requests since May.
Dr. Shikha Gupta, the Director of Communications and Development and Vice President of the Board at GetUsPPE, also discussed these shortages and their implications in an interview with CNN.
Dr. Megan Ranney, co-founder of GetUsPPE, talked to NBC News about the reasons why requests have skyrocketed over the past few months. Dr. Ranney emphasized the need for better national strategies to identify areas of need and deliver PPE quickly, as well as the problem with allowing markets to continually raise the prices of PPE.
These shortages have sparked various movements around the country to make and deliver PPE. Dorothy Jones-Davis, the Maker Lead for GetUsPPE, sat down to discuss the “Do It Yourself” mentality and how that has transitioned into a worldwide movement to produce masks and gowns from home.
In the midst of all the numbers,heartwarming stories remind us of the dedication and solidarity that community members have demonstrated over the past few months. One particular group, Boston Scientific, a manufacturer of medical devices, has partnered with GetUsPPE to help deliver PPE to a variety of communities. With the help of Alisa Niksch, Eda Altiok, and others, we were able to match 13,500 face shields, 22,000 ear protectors, and 2,100 gowns. Boston Scientific has donated 1.4 million face shields in total, and will continue to deliver PPE through GetUsPPE in August.