The federal government reportedly waited until the middle of March to place bulk orders of much-needed medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic—including N95 respirator masks, ventilators, and other equipment used by healthcare workers. According to the Associated Press, Health and Human Services (HHS) made an initial order on March 12 for $4.8 million worth of N95 masks from 3M after the company had ramped up production due to COVID-19. The agency then placed another $173 million order on March 21, but those contracts don’t require 3M to deliver the products to the Strategic National Stockpile until the end of April.
By mid-March, hospitals in several states were asking for supplies from the national stockpile. Some states reported receiving broken ventilators and unusable masks from the federal government. The stockpile is reportedly running critically low, just as national hotbeds like New York City are reaching the apex of the pandemic. HHS has not spoken publicly on the matter. This comes after reports that warnings of the virus were first reaching the White House in January and early February.