Maryland received small fraction of coronavirus gear it requested from U.S. government, including body bags

Maryland requested more than a million masks, gloves and face shields — and 15,000 body bags — from the federal government, but has received only a small fraction as it tries to prepare for continued increases in new coronavirus cases, according to a new document.

The state received about a third of the 778,129 face masks it requested, just 110,240 of the 421,532 N95 respirator masks it sought, well fewer than half of the 330,540 requested gloves and none of the 100,000 testing swabs it hoped to acquire to test for the virus, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency documents released Thursday by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform.


Maryland was the only state in its FEMA region — which also covers the surrounding states and the District of Columbia — to request body bags. The state sought 15,000 and hasn’t received any, according to the document.

“The numbers are unbelievably low,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat.


Cardin said the state’s congressional delegation planned to talk soon about supplies with MaryAnn E. Tierney, the FEMA regional administrator for the states named in the document.

The delegation said it identified six priority requests to FEMA: ventilators, personal protective equipment, testing supplies, swabs, pharmaceutical supplies for medical surge sites, and mobile medical labs.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland and officials from many states have warned they lack adequate personal protective equipment and medical supplies for health care workers to handle the pandemic.

“These documents starkly illustrate a point that Governor Hogan has repeatedly made on behalf of his colleagues: no state has enough of what it needs to fight this pandemic,” tweeted Mike Ricci, the governor’s communications director. “The governors will continue to use all of the tools at their disposal to get the critical resources needed to save lives and slow the spread of the virus.”

As Maryland seeks to ramp up testing, Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said it is significant that the state hasn’t received any of the 100,000 nasopharyngeal swabs it requested from federal supplies or the 50,000 viral transport units it sought. Transport media is a substance used for preserving a test sample on its way to a laboratory.

Some supplies have come to states from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, a large store of medical supplies for use when normal stocks are depleted in emergencies in the United States. The federal government does not specify the locations of its warehouses, but members of the Maryland Air National Guard have helped distribute equipment from one stockpile near Baltimore.

In its planning, FEMA said it knew that the Strategic National Stockpile alone could not fulfill needed supplies and that it would need to turn to other sources.

FEMA said in a statement Thursday that the federal government “will exhaust all means to identify and attain medical and other supplies needed to combat the virus.”

It said it was tapping not only the Strategic National Stockpile, but also Department of Defense allocations and other sources. The agency said it has shipped 11.6 million N-95 respirators, 26 million surgical masks, 5.2 million face shields, 8,100 ventilators and other equipment to public health authorities around the nation.

Maryland did receive 138 of 200 requested ventilators, the FEMA documents show.

FEMA briefed leaders of the House committee Wednesday. According to a committee release, FEMA “conceded that, based on current (national) projections, the demand for ventilators ‘outstrips the capacity’ of the Strategic National Stockpile and those provided by the Department of Defense.”

FEMA also said at the briefing that it recommended medical professionals reuse personal protective equipment, if necessary, given current shortages, according to the committee.


Lacking necessary supplies, Maryland has continued to work with the federal government and with "private vendors, organizations and residents to get more personal protective equipment,” Maryland Health Department spokesman Charles Gischlar said Wednesday, before the document was released.

The state agency had no immediate response Thursday to questions about the new documents and how it calculated a need for 15,000 body bags.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Maryland jumped 17% Thursday to more than 2,000. The global pandemic has infected more than 800,000 people and killed nearly 40,000 internationally and at least 36 in Maryland.

Overall, the oversight committee said FEMA had distributed fewer than 10% of the N95 masks and less than 1% of gloves sought collectively by Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

“The administration was caught flat-footed when it came to supplies,” Van Hollen said. “This is a huge problem. This has been a source of enormous frustration and concern from the start.”

With supplies of masks and other equipment in short supply, businesses, universities, volunteer groups and others in Maryland and around the nation have tried to fill in the gaps.

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