Some states and cities across the country that have received shipments of masks, gloves, ventilators and other equipment from the nation’s medical stockpile to fight say the materials are unusable.
For example, about 6,000 medical masks that were sent to Alabama had dry rot and a 2010 expiration date.
In addition, more than 150 ventilators shipped to Los Angeles were broken and had to be repaired.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, some masks came with faulty elastic that could cause the straps to snap.
“Several of the shipments we have received from the strategic national stockpile contained (personal protective equipment) well past expiration dates and, while we are being told much of the expired equipment is capable of being used for COVID-19 response, they would not be suitable for use in surgical settings,” Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, said in an email.
He added that some of the equipment had been purchased during the H1N1 outbreak more than a decade ago and that the masks were among products that had previously recalled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The cloth face coverings recommended to slow spread of #COVID19 are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those critical supplies must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
— CDC (@CDCgov) April 3, 2020
A shortage of protective gear has challenged doctors, nurses and other medical workers. In particular, ventilators have been in short supply as more states experience COVID-19 outbreaks.
Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association and the former top public health official in that state, says he has received multiple emails from hospitals about stockpile shipments of N95 masks in which the rubber bands that hold the mask tight around the user’s face had dry rot.
“It’s really alarming because those masks are desperately needed,” explains U.S. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama. “When our national stockpile is not monitored enough to know that you’ve got expired masks and rotted masks out there and not replenished, that is a real problem.”
Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado on Friday requested an investigation into the management of the supply and distribution of ventilators from the national stockpile. Among other issues, he cited reports that maintenance failures were contributing to the lack of working ventilators “at a time our country desperately needs them.”
The CDC has acknowledged that some of the items in the U.S. stockpile have exceeded their manufacturer-designated shelf life but are continuing to be distributed due to the urgent demand.