On Sunday The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration declined an offer from a major medical supply manufacturer to ramp up production of N95 masks in January, as warnings about the spread of the deadly coronavirus were growing.
According to the story, the owner of Prestige Ameritech reached out to administration officials offering to produce an additional 1.7 million N95s per week. But the response from officials including the assistant secretary for preparedness and emergency response “left [owner Michael] Bowen with the clear impression that there was little immediate interest in his offer.” The Post also noted that “Even today, production lines that could be making more than 7 million masks a month sit dormant.”
Fast forward several months, and North Carolina’s first responders are in desperate need of PPE, including and especially N95s. According to state data, North Carolina “ordered more than 27 million N-95 masks, but has only received 99,000.”
Last week, Wilson County Emergency Management Director Gordon Deno told ABC 11, “At the present time, our vendors are unable to fulfill the majority of our PPE needs.” Kevin Hubbard, Johnston County Director of Emergency Services, said, “If [health workers] don’t protect themselves and they can’t come to work, then we can’t come to provide the same level of service we have right now and that’s bad for everybody.”
Meanwhile, the state’s supply of medical gowns is also dangerously low, even as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in NC continues to rise.
“This weekend’s report in The Washington Post is a solemn reminder that the Trump Administration had numerous opportunities to take proactive steps that would have mitigated the spread of this virus — they failed at every turn,” said NCDP Communications Director Austin Cook. “North Carolina’s first responders continue to put themselves in harm’s way in the fight against this pandemic, and with each passing day we learn more about the extent of this president’s abject failure to protect them.”
On Sunday, North Carolina’s “daily case count exceeded 400 for the fifth consecutive day,” bringing the statewide total to more than 14,700 confirmed cases. The virus has now spread to 99 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.