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Are we prepared for another covid-19 wave?

Were154 million personal protective equipment items enough?

By Rick Brundrett

Special to the Chronicle

Do we have enough medical supplies to deal with another wave of covid-19?

As of early May, the federal government had provided nearly 154 million personal protective equipment items to SC.

These were surgical and exam gloves, medical masks, face shields and gowns, Congressman Joe Wilson of Springdale said.

At the same time, many South Carolinians were scrambling to find hand sanitizer and masks.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed Congressman Wilson’s numbers.

They provided records showing that nearly all of items came from the “global market place,” with less than 1% supplied from the Strategic National Stockpile.

What’s still not publicly known after 3 months of the virus outbreak is exactly how much of the federally provided personal protective equipment (PPE) made it down to the local level.

The SC Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) has fielded more than 2,700 requests – mostly for PPE items.

An agency spokesman said most hospitals can get needed items through normal supply channels.

The AccelerateSC advisory committee proposed a coordinated effort to buy PPE in bulk and maintain a backup supply in the case it is exhausted.

No specifics about what or how much was needed for a state stockpile was given.

Gov. Henry McMaster has recommended that up to $17 million of $1.9 billion in federal aid be used to create a 28-day state PPE stockpile for  health care workers and first responders.

Lawmakers plan to return to Columbia later this month to decide how to spend the $1.9 billion in federal aid.

It’s unclear if they will decide to tap a special $155 million in state surplus funds to respond to the outbreak.

Congressman Wilson listed these  federal PPE items as of May 8:

  • 147,206,600 surgical and exam gloves;
  • 4,108,700 surgical and procedural masks;
  • 2,013,200 isolation and surgical gowns;
  • 355,900 N95 masks;
  • 124,200 eye and face shields.

As of Tuesday, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) had the following medical supplies on hand, according to records released under the state Freedom of Information Act:

  • 32,350 surgical masks;
  • 7,598 goggles;
  • 6,220 N95 masks;
  • 5,500 gloves;
  • 4,283 coveralls;
  • 2,324 full face shields;
  • 1,450 gowns;
  • 1,000 safety glasses;
  • 4 gallons of hand sanitizer.

DHEC noted it had no ventilators.

SC Emergency Management Division spokesman Derrec Becker didn’t respond to questions about how many federally provided PPE items were distributed to state agencies or counties and the planned size of a state PPE reserve.

The AccelerateSC report noted the Strategic National Stockpile was “not able to meet South Carolina’s needs,” recommending an analysis of options to develop a state-level strategic stockpile.

For more on Brudrett's PPE findings, please go to https://thenerve.org/s-c-medical-stockpiles-big-enough-for-future-health-emergencies/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=mailchimp&utm_campaign=thenerve&mc_cid=a810c96a02&mc_eid=415b03ff04

 

Brundrett is news editor of the SC Policy Council's The Nerve newsletter.

 

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