Almost 1.5 million N95 respirator masks were found in a U.S. government warehouse in Indiana and officials reportedly plan to give them to the Transportation Security Administration rather than hospitals hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. According to The Washington Post, there were initial concerns that the masks—which are a part of the Customs and Border Protection’s emergency supplies—were expired and therefore unusable. However, it was determined that the N95 masks were still suitable for use and Department of Homeland Security officials decided to give them to the TSA in a Wednesday conference call, according to sources cited by the Post. While the TSA workforce has been asking for more protective equipment, there are reportedly no plans to offer masks to hospitals or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Medical professionals in New York and other hard-hit areas in the country have reportedly run out of protective gear or have been advised to use their remaining N95 masks with multiple patients—which could risk spreading the virus.
The TSA confirmed to the Post that they had been offered a large number of masks by CBP and they would give them to airports as needed, but it is reportedly unclear when they would be shipped.