Two top Democratic lawmakers are insisting on answers from Vice President Mike Pence following reports of growing personal protective equipment and supply shortages among nursing homes.
“Masks, gloves, gowns and other PPE are the armor that nursing home workers wear into battle against COVID-19, and their continued scarcity in nursing homes around the country puts residents and the workers who care for them at unneeded risk,” Sens. Ron Wyden (OR) and Bob Casey (PA), ranking members of the Senate Finance and Aging committees, respectively, wrote in a letter to Pence on Wednesday.
An analysis of federal COVID-19 data by committee staff members “clearly shows” that PPE shortages are worsening at facilities across the United States, the senators asserted. At least one nursing home in all 50 states has reported being out of stock of one or more PPE supplies as of Aug. 9, and the number of facilities that have reported being out of supplies has increased since the start of July in more than 40 states.
The letter claims that federal data shows the number of nursing homes that reported having no current supply of one or more types of PPE nearly tripled from 486 facilities in early July to 1,335 by early August. Data also revealed that 3,216 nursing homes did not have a one-week supply of one or more types of PPE as of August 9 — an increase from 2,698 homes since July 5.
Questions for Pence in response to the reported shortages included: how CMS is ensuring nursing homes are maintaining adequate supplies of PPE, steps the administration is taking to bridge supply shortages, if there will be guidance on how much PPE facilities should have on hand during public health emergencies, and if shortages are disproportionately impacting nursing homes that serve minority communities?
“The Trump Administration’s continued failure to provide nursing homes with adequate supplies of PPE is one in a long line of decisions that has put residents and workers in unnecessary danger,” Wyden and Casey wrote.
“Nursing homes and other congregate settings have been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning. With the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] warning that the United States may be headed for the ‘worst Fall from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had,’ it is far past time for the Trump Administration to robustly respond to the supply shortages facing nursing homes,” they stressed.
This week, the federal government announced that it is shipping 1.5 million N95 respirators from the national stockpile to nursing homes reporting supply shortages. The number of respirators distributed to each nursing home is being based on the number of medical staff employed at the facility.