April 2, 2020
Yesterday, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to President Trump demanding an explanation for why New York State, which has substantially more confirmed COVID-19 cases than any other state, has not received its full allotment of PPE and medical supplies, while other states, such as Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Florida, have reportedly had their requests filled completely. Gillibrand called on Trump to deliver clarity and transparency on how FEMA is allocating resources and provide information on where medical supplies have been allocated thus far.
“President Trump and FEMA must answer questions about their process for allocating resources, their methodology, and why states with significantly fewer cases of COVID-19 than New York are having their requests filled completely, while our hospitals are still waiting on these critical supplies,” said Gillibrand. “The notion that certain states have greater access to the federal stockpile of medical supplies than others is deeply disturbing. New York is facing more cases of COVID-19 than any other state, and it’s time the federal government’s delivered the resources to the crisis we’re facing.”
As The Washington Post noted in its original story, certain states like Kentucky, Oklahoma and Florida, have received 100%, and in some cases more, of the medical supplies that they requested, while other states like New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and others, are still short. The Post noted, for example, that “Oklahoma received 120,000 face shields despite requesting only 16,000, according to the state’s health department. North Carolina, by contrast, requested 500,000 medical coveralls and received 306, state records show.”
Multiple New York hospitals have reported that their orders for PPE have been diverted to other recipients or that they cannot successfully procure medical equipment and PPE because they are being outbid by the federal government. This makes FEMA’s allocations to states all the more important. Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that New York needs 40,000 ventilators for our hospitals, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has only provided 4,400 from the Strategic National Stockpile.
Full text of the letter can be found below
Dear President Trump,
I am writing out of deep concern over the poor coordination between the Federal government and State governments in the procurement and distribution of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators throughout the nation. New York State has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 in the United States by far. As of April 1, New York had witnessed 1,941 deaths among its 83,712 confirmed cases, 12,226 of whom are currently hospitalized. New York’s number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are dramatically increasing by the day.
While some parts of the Federal government have provided extraordinary work, such as the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Defense, who have added more hospital beds in New York City to alleviate the strain on our hospitals, we need supplies in addition to beds. Our hospitals and medical centers do not have anywhere near enough of the medical equipment they need to save lives. On top of that, our healthcare workers, who are performing nothing less than a heroic task, are scrambling to acquire enough PPE to protect themselves and, by extension, their patients. Just this week, we learned that a community health center in Queens was forced to lay off its workforce after a number of employees tested positive for COVID-19 because they did not have proper PPE. Let me be very clear about what this means – if our doctors and nurses continue to be put at risk because they do not have proper PPE, more New Yorkers who are infected with COVID-19 will not be able to get the medical care they need and more people will die. We need all of our doctors, nurses, and first responders healthy and working if we are going to get through this crisis.
There have been reports that some states that are not has hard hit as New York have received 100%, and in some cases more, of the medical supplies that they requested. It has been reported that the State of Florida (6,741 confirmed cases) received the total amount of its first two requests, and that Kentucky (632 confirmed cases) and Oklahoma (568 confirmed cases) have received more of some equipment than was requested.  New York, on the other hand, has not. Multiple New York hospitals have reported that their orders for PPE have been diverted to other recipients. Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that New York needs 40,000 ventilators for our hospitals. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has only provided 4,400 from the Strategic National Stockpile. Despite your admonition to states and local governments to go out and procure their own equipment first and not rely on the Federal government to be a “shipping clerk,” New York and others are unable to successfully procure medical equipment and PPE in the marketplace because they are being outbid by FEMA. This makes FEMA’s allocations to states all the more important and the apparent prioritization of states with lower numbers of cases over those with higher numbers must end immediately.
We desperately need clarity and transparency from your administration on how FEMA’s equipment allocations are being made on a daily basis. Specifically, we need to know the following:
Where PPE, ventilators, and testing supplies and equipment have been, and will be, allocated and a timeline for allocation.
A clear articulation of the methodology used by FEMA to decide where to ship PPE.
A timeline for when each additional shipment of PPE procured by FEMA can be expected, and the quantities of equipment that will be included in each shipment to the United States.
A clear plan for how any supplies and equipment produced pursuant to your invoking of the Defense Production Act will be distributed to states.
Clear guidance to states, municipalities, hospitals and other medical facilities that are still trying to independently procure medical equipment in competition with FEMA’s procurement.
A plan to de-conflict order that should be going to the hardest hit areas but are instead being diverted by the vendors to FEMA.
An overreliance on the “commercial system,” which has pit all 50 states and the feds in a bidding war for supplies, is already leading to increased illnesses in New York and will continue to be a problem. FEMA needs to get a much better handle on the logistics of procuring and distributing testing materials and PPE to those who need it most. It is my sincere hope that you will do everything in your power to ensure that New York and other hard-hit states are not shortchanged by the Federal government and are prioritized commensurate with the level of infection and hospitalization rates that have been reported and are expected going forward.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
United States Senator