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The Global Toll Of COVID-19, PPE Shortages

Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina in early 2020 via Alex Cason, ChalotteFive

Posted: April 12, 2020 at 11:05 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

“The World Health Organization has warned that severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) – caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse – is putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases,” the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned on March 3, 2020, in response to the challenges COVID-19 (Coronavirus, 2019) presents the global community.

“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added in the press release. However, the most alarming aspect of the memo was related to the demand for PPE is just within the medical community.

“Based on WHO modeling, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month. For examination gloves, that figure goes up to 76 million, while international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month.” 

A nurse in the United States speaking on background said her facility is now requiring employees to make masks for use at work due to the global shortage of PPE while asking them to sanitize ear probs after taking temperatures to reuse them due to further shortages in the area.

Several days ago the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) published the following regarding shortages of PPE for medical personnel throughout the country. “We have received information from healthcare organizations that some distributors may have placed certain types of personal protective equipment (PPE) on allocation, basing the quantity available to the healthcare organization on previous usage, not projected use. Increased use may exceed the available supply of PPE, resulting in shortages at some healthcare organizations.”

A resident of an eastern North Carolina city said there was recently a fight between two adult men over medical masks at a local store. The United Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a strategic document for healthcare workers to optimize the supply of N-95 surgical masks. This came after their original recommendation led to the further hoarding of surgical masks, despite the organization stating non-medical personnel should not purchase from the already slim supply chain.

Organizations around the country are doing what they can to help those now out of work due to COVID-19. “Community Housing Network sees first-hand the impact of this global health crisis on individuals and families already in need in the Metro Detroit area.” Marc Craig, President and CEO, Community Housing Network (CHN) said the following to the Oakland Press, “Now us is the time to partner with all of our fellow service organizations to make sure that every family has what they need to manage through this crisis. In the past weeks, we have depleted our reserve supplies in order to give directly to the shelters working on the frontlines, and are partnered with organizations like YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) to ensure that there are safe food distribution sites.”

However, more help will likely be necessary from the federal government, on top of The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law on March 26th. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently published a dire study showing the damage COVID-19 has done to the unemployment rate in the United States.

“As highlighted in The Employment Situation news release, the unemployment rate increased by 0.9 percentage point to 4.4 percent, and the number of unemployed people rose by 1.4 million to 7.1 million in March. Jobless rates rose among all major worker groups. The sharp increases in unemployment reflect the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it. Note that measures from the household survey pertain to the week of March 8–14. The number of unemployed people who reported being on temporary layoff more than doubled in March to 1.8 million. This 1.0 million gain represented the bulk of the increase in unemployment. The number of permanent job losers increased by 177,000 to 1.5 million. The number of unemployed people who were jobless less than 5 weeks increased by 1.5 million in March to 3.5 million, accounting for almost half of the unemployed. Employment, as measured by the household survey, fell sharply in March, declining by 3.0 million to 155.8 million. The employment-population ratio, at 60.0 percent, dropped by 1.1 percentage points over the month. Employment declines were widespread among the major worker groups.”

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