RICHMOND, VA — New data released by the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform show that the Trump administration failed to adequately fulfill requests for personal protection equipment in Virginia and across the country, while Trump repeatedly said he believed states are exaggerating their needs.
Here in Virginia, the Commonwealth requested 500,000 each of two different swabs necessary to conduct testing, and received zero. Virginia has received only about half of requested face shields, surgical masks, and surgical gowns; and 7-8% each of its requested 2,200 coveralls, 3.4 million gloves, and 2.2 million N95 respirators.
Much of this is a result of Trump’s larger failures to secure medical equipment nationwide, leaving governors and hospital systems to compete against each other on the market for what limited amount is available. Trump has downplayed the need for ventilators, dragged his feet on invoking and using the Defense Production Act to spur manufacturing of crucial medical supplies, and has forced states to compete against each other for medical supplies on the open market, driving up prices as they try to outbid each other and the federal government.
So our doctors and nurses are forced to improvise. They’re donning trash bags and buying respirators on eBay typically used by construction workers who might be working around materials like asbestos.
As a result of equipment shortages, health care providers are getting infected, and have few places to turn to find crucial personal protective equipment. The AFGE union at the Hampton VA Medical Center tweeted about how another of their members tested positive for COVID-19. In the tweet, they say, “staff are desperate for PPE. If anyone has extra N95s please reach out.”
Facing these shortages, the Trump administration said yesterday that "a major disaster exists" in Virginia, making direct federal assistance more available, but it is unclear how much money Virginia will receive from the federal government as a result of the declaration. Our medical professionals are in limbo without these resources as Trump continues to mishandle this crisis.