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United States Nursing Homes Run Short Of Protective Equipment

Nursing homes became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. The elderly are a vulnerable population during these times, being affected by the disease the most. Under the direction of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is tasked with coordinating PPE shipments to all 15,400 nursing homes in the United States. However, the packages have proved to be a disappointment., if they arrive at all.

Many contain flimsy masks or cloth face coverings that are not medical grade. Packages contain missing items or have fewer products than promised. Instead of proper gowns, the packages contain plastic ponchos that have been compared to trash bags. They have yet to receive N95 masks, hand sanitizers, or face shields. About one fifth – 3,213 out of 15,400 - of the nation’s nursing homes have reported receiving less than a week’s worth of supplies. Of the 3,213 nursing homes, 946 reported to have at least one confirmed COVID infection since the pandemic began. This shortage of PPE in nursing homes has contributed to the number of cases and deaths within its residents. More than 217,000 residents have contracted the virus and 43,000 have died. This has caused nursing homes to take matters into their own hands and look for supplies. However, in a turbulent market with increased prices and continuous sparsity, they have found it difficult to attain these necessities.

According to the trade group, LeadingAge, a list of the sub-standard shipments have been compiled. A care home in Missouri found that the masks that were sent to them were “too small and tough to breath through.” An organization in Minnesota claimed to have cloth masks made from Hanes and men’s underwear. A facility in Kansas were sent 1,000 cloth masks, but were unable to assess where the masks had come from which rendered them useless. A nursing home in California that had received some N95 mask were unable to use them seeing as they were expired.

Will officials take a stand at ensuring proper shipments take place? Will FEMA replace what has already been given?