Virginia Shortchanged by National Stockpile? Don’t Complain, Do Something

Source: House Committee on Oversight and Reform

by James A. Bacon

Virginia has received only a fraction of the medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile it needs to fight the COVID-19 virus, according to documents released by the House Committee on Oversight and reform.

“The new documents we are releasing today confirm the urgent warnings we have been hearing from our nation’s governors and health care professionals for weeks — they do not have enough personal protective equipment and medical supplies, and the Administration has provided only a tiny fraction of what they desperately need,” stated Rep. Carolyn B. Mahoney, chairwoman of the committee.

“While we appreciate what we’ve received from the national stockpile, it isn’t close to enough,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement to the Virginia Mercury Thursday. “Virginia’s health care providers and first responders deserve basic protection, equipment and supplies. We need more, period. Virginia will continue to exhaust every option — including federal support — to get what we need on the front lines.”

As of Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Health had a total of only 78,920 N95 respirator masks available for distribution from the state stockpile, the Mercury reported, based on data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Thirteen Virginia hospitals have indicated that they would have difficulty obtaining or replenishing enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to meet demand within the next three days without assistance.

Last week Northam said the state is competing with its own healthcare systems, other states, and even other countries to buy PPE, and contended that the federal government should take on the responsibility. “We are all out there bidding literally against each other,” Northam said.

Bacon’s bottom line: Clearly, there is a major problem. Scapegoating is inevitable as everyone seeks political cover. There are a couple of points worth noting.

First, one reason that Virginia is not getting all the supplies the state requested is that the needs of other states are far more dire. Here’s a snapshot (9:30 a.m.) of the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus map:

Here’s how many Virginians have died of the COVID-19 virus: 46
Here’s how many residents of New York City have died of the virus: 1,562.

Whose medical system is in greatest danger of being overwhelmed right now, New York City’s or Virginia’s? Clearly, the people in charge of the Strategic National Stockpile are responding to immediate needs, not anticipated needs. The problem for Virginia is that the COVID-19 epidemic spiked first in the Northeastern corridor (Philadelphia, New York, Boston), and the pressing needs of those communities have drained the national stockpile.

Which brings me to my second point. As long as other parts of the country are faring worse than Virginia — more COVID-19 hospitalizations, greater equipment shortages — there is no moral or ethical justification for Virginia to demand a greater share of the national stockpile distributions. The commonwealth’s emergency preparedness team needs to get on with it and do what it can with the resources available.

Governor Northam argues that the federal government should take on responsibility for acquiring and distribution medical supplies. Undoubtedly, the market is chaotic right now, equipment suppliers are looking for guidance, and the federal government can play a useful role. But be careful what you wish for. If the Trump administration took full control of the medical equipment supply chain, it would also decide who gets what. And, at the moment, Virginia would fall pretty low on the list.

Virginia needs to mobilize whatever community resources it can — from business, from nonprofits, from philanthropists, from individuals. The federal government is too remote and bureaucratic to effectively tap those energies. State government is closer to the people. The Commonwealth of Virginia should focus on adding to the national supply of medical equipment, not scrabble for a sliver of the supply controlled by Washington.

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24 responses to “Virginia Shortchanged by National Stockpile? Don’t Complain, Do Something

  1. Those are Jared’s supplies. He knows what’s best.

    BTW, senior life hack. Buy 2 Quart half&half. It has a shelf life 3x that of milk. Mix 50-50 with purified water for a milk substitute when needed. A little rich, but it won’t turn to cottage cheese.

  2. in one of the few useful comments Northam made during his press conferences he claimed that Virginia state prisoners were making protective masks. AS usual there was no detail so nobody knew the protection level of these masks. However, the consensus of “experts” seems to be that people should wear some kind of mask in public. This begs the question of whether there will be enough lower quality masks for that purpose. Anybody hear an update on our governor’s claim that prisoners are making masks?

    • Offenders in DOC facilities are making masks for use by offenders and DOC staff. They are not medical grade. Here is an excerpt from a DOC press release dated today that speaks to the progress on making masks: “Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE) is now manufacturing about 30,000 sneeze/cough guard masks per day for offenders and staff. Multiple masks are being made for each offender and facility staff member. Once enough masks are available for DOC staff and offenders, we will evaluate whether we can make them for other state and local government entities.”

      • DIck, in the papers this morning, it said DOC was thinking about opening up a closed site near Culpeper to transfer all who are infected. Coffeewood?

        • It is called the Culpeper Correctional Center and is across the road from the Coffeewood Correctional Center. The Culpeper center was built originally to house juveniles, then was turned over to DOC, who planned to use it for females, but that idea was abandoned in the face of budget cuts several years ago. The Coffeewood CC houses male offenders.

          DOC is considering using Culpeper to house offenders with covid-19. To use it, there is a lot that needs to be done. The facility was stripped of all equipment long ago. There was some construction going on to convert it to be used for females, which was discontinued after budget problems killed that idea. I don’t know what shape it is in–walls half down or what. Finally, and most difficult, DOC will need to staff the facility.

          I see from a “breaking” headline on the RTD website that a fourth female offender has tested positive for covid-19 at the Goochland facility. So far, all those offenders are being kept there. I earlier speculated they may be moved to Fluvanna, but, upon further reflection, I knew that was not a good idea. DOC would not want to take a change on introducing the virus into the larger facility.

          • I suppose it’s also possible to transfer everyone from one facility to other facilities and then turn that existing facility into a COVID 19 facility?

      • Theoretically, that would possible, particularly for one of the smaller facilities. The problem with that strategy would be that the smaller facilities do not have the medical space/equipment that would likely be needed to care for covid-19 patients.

        DOC also had a correctional officer who works at Indian Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake test positive. I am sure that they are anxiously watching that facility.

  3. Has anybody heard anything from Virginia’s two US Senators – Tim Kaine and Mark Warner – both former governors? Do they think the federal government is treating Virginia fairly?

  4. Yes, where are Kaine and Warner?

    And where is the great University of Virginia?

    In general where are Virginia’s leaders in times of crisis?

    No where to be found, that is where. All of them fraudulent leaders. Useless when really needed. They’ve fled the scene. As did the French leaders when Germans got close to Paris, they left town in the night. The French people were the last to know. The people stared in wonderment and horror as the Jack Boots marched into Paris. Their leaders by then were in London, and Spain.

    • Where? They are sitting by their phones waiting for one of Virginia’s five remaining real reporters to call. I don’t live in Tim’s neighborhood anymore so I can’t go up to the door and knock….

  5. The basic issue is that everyone – Fed and State thought the Feds were in charge of the stockpile and had enough for _most” disasters but they did not for a pandemic.

    AND – they apparently had no real way to allocate or triage so it was the wild wild west.

    Had folks like Northam KNOWN earlier on that the stockpile did not have enough and he was on his own – perhaps he could have acted but in the end when you don’t have enough and the word is that it’s every state for itself – bad stuff happens and people in charge look bad and make more mistakes.

    Northam is no Cuomo or Hogan – that’s clear. But assertions that he is doing nothing is just plain wrong.

    And the big problem with the critics and “accountability” is that they want to know more so they can criticize more… nothing constructive , just hate and discontent.

  6. Hasn’t it been reported that Trump told states to take responsibility for obtaining supplies in the marketplace. Then when they tried, they couldn’t out bid the federal government for the things they needed?

    • Yes… he said the govt was not a “supply clerk” and the States had to take responsibility and so they have – and all 50 of thing are competing against each other and the Federal govt for supplies – and things like the N-95 masks that cost a buck, now cost 5-7 bucks.

      We just do not have enough stuff and Cuomo surprised me with a rather “duh” comment. He said: “guess what, China makes all this stuff, Who would have thought that?”. And of course we have others openly criticizing China at the same time they are trying to buy this stuff from them.

      So guess what? This IS our first “rodeo” for pandemics and we got some lessons learned for the next one.

      GAWD O’Mighty – talk about “new’ jobs, new ” bureaucracy”… after this is over with – we’re gonna have a Grand Poobah – Office of Pandemics or some such – Federal and State and local… probably Corporations too!

  7. You can see where Kaine and Warner were by reviewing the press releases on their websites.

    Mark Warner — https://www.warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2019/4/senators-introduce-bipartisan-legislation-to-ban-manipulative-dark-patterns

    Tim Kaine — https://www.kaine.senate.gov/press-releases/kaine-announces-support-for-usmca

    Not much during January during the Trump impeachment trial. But a deluge of press releases in March, almost all highly critical of the President.

  8. Here’s what Trump said, according to The Hill:

    “They can get them faster by getting them on their own,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “In other words, go through a supply chain that they may have because the governors, during normal times, the governors buy a lot of things, not necessarily through the federal government.” …

    “We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself,” he reportedly said.

    In other words, he told governors to supplement federal efforts with their own efforts. Can such an admonition really be argued with?

    • DO you want to also add the OTHER things Trump has said so we have a fair and balanced approach?

      It makes ZERO sense to tell the states in a time of worldwide pandemic to each go out and try to buy; all that does is cause them to bid against each other.

      In normal times, yes, during a global pandemic – where is the leadership?

      • LOL. Here’s Nancy Pelosi on Feb 24 encouraging people to come out to Chinatown in SanFrancisco while counseling that the Coronavirus is elsewhere.

        https://youtu.be/eFCzoXhNM6c

        • So Jim Bacon… if DJ is going to post videos of national leaders, can others respond with videos of national leaders?

          what say you?

          • Gee, Larry, it looks like he was posting the video in direct response to your claim about Trump. But if you want to respond to Don with our own clip, go ahead.

            I don’t want to squelch an ongoing dialogue. But if this becomes all-Trump-all-the-time, I will shut it down. I will shut it down all the faster if the rhetoric gets nasty.

        • re: ” ee, Larry, it looks like he was posting the video in direct response to your claim about Trump. But if you want to respond to Don with our own clip, go ahead.”

          Wasn’t my response up thread to your comment about TRump?

          “I don’t want to squelch an ongoing dialogue. But if this becomes all-Trump-all-the-time, I will shut it down. I will shut it down all the faster if the rhetoric gets nasty.”

          Well no, you said earlier – no more TRump – even after you had been doing it and if not mistaken, continued… but you did not like the opposing views.

          I’m just looking for the rules for all to follow.

          There are LOTS of videos of Trump of a lot of things he has said – we don’t have to make claims about it – it’s easy in the videos.

          so can we? just make it for all of us – and you.

          I think it’s dang near impossible to discuss the pandemic and Northam without discussing the Feds and Trump but if that’s your rules – fine by me, just enforce them and include yourself.

          How about it?

          No Trump at all by anyone?

          or…….. we can talk about Trump but not criticize him or….
          what?

          you used to say – more than once that you LOATHED Trump, right?

          still there or have you changed your mind?

  9. The April 2nd Virginian-Pilot reported on the amounts of supplies Va requested and received from the SNS, and in the article said, “The third shipment of supplies was far below what Virginia sought, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran told a teleconference sponsored by the Virginia Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy on Thursday.”

    The date on the posted request is March 30. Anyone know when the first two requests were made?
    https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/documents/VA%20PPE%203-30-2020.pdf

  10. The real truth is that the only national politician who had his head on straight about Coronavirus was some cat named Tom Cotton. Trump got the restriction on travel from China right on 1/31 but then went delusional with thoughts of Democratic virus conspiracies dancing in his head (and, worse yet, in his tweets). Pelosi drew crowds in SanFrancisco’s Chinatown telling people not to fear the virus. I think rumors that she sang “don’t fear the virus” to the tune of the Blue Oyster Cult song “Don’t fear the reaper” are fake news.

    Comrade Mayor de Balsio completely bungled New York City’s initial response but progressive governor Andrew Cuomo has done yeoman’s work untangling the fiasco in the Empire State.

    Our national politicians seem to be doing the best we can expect right now. Most states are doing the best that they can too. But Virginia and Texas just can’t seem to get a broad based testing program launched.

    • geeze – ” The rumor appeared shortly after the new coronavirus struck China and spread almost as quickly: that the outbreak now afflicting people around the world had been manufactured by the Chinese government.

      The conspiracy theory lacks evidence and has been dismissed by scientists. But it has gained an audience with the help of well-connected critics of the Chinese government such as Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist. And on Sunday, it got its biggest public boost yet.

      Speaking on Fox News, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, raised the possibility that the virus had originated in a high-security biochemical lab in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak.”

  11. Closer to home, DC is testing aggressively and now is getting 14% positives. From what I’ve read that’s near the start of the real hell. Can Arlington or suburban Maryland be far off? Connecticut is already entering the crisis zone with a 21% positive score. Pennsylvania is getting close with a 13% positive and Maryland is creeping up at 11% (same as Virginia). Georgia is fully in the kim chee at 24%.

    Comorbidities, especially obesity, are skewing the numbers in the deep south apparently. More younger people are getting hospitalized in the deep south than elsewhere according to some reports.

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