The United States has roughly one percent of the respirator masks required for medical professionals if the country faces a “full-blown” pandemic, contrary to a previous assertion that it has 10 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Wednesday. Health and Human Service official Dr. Robert Kadlec mistakenly said on Tuesday during a Senate health committee hearing that the country has roughly 10 percent of the total number of masks needed if faced with a “full-blown pandemic.” Kadlec said during the hearing that the U.S. would need “3.5 billion N95 respirator masks. We have about 35 million.” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) responded with a false estimate: “So, about 10 percent?” Kadlec asserted, “10 percent, and we’re actively working on that.” A HHS spokesperson clarified that the nation has a supply of 42 million N95 and surgical masks, amounting to roughly 1.2 percent of the needed stockpile.
One billion dollars from the $8.3 billion spending package that was approved by congressional negotiators on Wednesday will be reserved for medical supplies and protective gear. “Supplies are rapidly depleting. WHO estimates that, each month, 89 million medical masks will be required for the COVID-19 response, 76 million examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the World Health Organization, said on Wednesday.