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Persistent shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment hinders medicine and dentistry during pandemic: NYT


photo by Juraj Varga courtesy of

This report in the New York Times July 8 details a persistent shortage of personal protective equipment like N95 masks, gloves, and gowns that is preventing medical offices and dentists from seeing patients during the pandemic.  Hospitals are able to obtain protective gear to cover most of their needs, but smaller groups are still struggling to obtain essential equipment.  From the article:

 Neurologists, cardiologists and cancer specialists around the country have been unable to reopen their offices in recent weeks, leaving many patients without care, according to the American Medical Association and other doctor groups.

Lubbock Kids Dental of Lubbock, Texas, which serves low-income children, has been unable to obtain masks and gloves for dental surgery and has a list of over 50 children with abscesses waiting for care.  Treatment with antibiotics has not relieved the need for surgical drainage, and these patients are at risk of developing septicemia if the bacteria enter the bloodstream.

Other outpatient clinics also cannot obtain sufficient masks to re-open.  Many hospitals are forcing their staff to re-use N95 masks, and some staff dealing with coronavirus patients can’t get the N95 masks at all.  The article describes numerous cases of re-use and shortages.

The US is dependent on foreign manufacturers for most of its protective equipment; domestic companies are unable to make sufficient supplies to meet demand.  The federal government could help by invoking the Defense Production Act, but it has done nothing to encourage or mandate supply improvements.  Small amounts of PPE are being distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), but nowhere near enough to meet demand.

The shortage is felt most at the level of individual medical and dental practitioners, who cannot band together to order PPE supplies.  The federal government is still doing nothing to help, and spokesmen like the Vice President are lying about the situation.  From the article:

In a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence downplayed the shortages, but said the government was preparing to issue new guidance on the preservation and reuse of protective gear. “P.P.E., we hear, remains very strong,” he said.

With the pandemic worsening every day in the South and West, this situation is critical and unconscionable, especially in a supposedly affluent country.  The resulting suffering and deaths are entirely the responsibility of our leaders, especially he-who-must-not-be-named.

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