Race For Protective Gear Leaves States, Including Kentucky, Hanging

Apr 6, 2020

The sprint to acquire lifesaving personal protective equipment, known as PPE, amid the coronavirus crisis is pitting states against the federal government and each other as cases ramp up across the country.

In this April 2, 2020 photo, a nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle holds a medical face shield prior to the start of her shift in a triage tent outside the Harborview emergency department used to intake arriving patients who have respiratory symptoms.
Credit (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

State leaders say they're being told by the federal government to set up their own supply chains for equipment like face shields, latex gloves, disposable gowns, and the coveted N95 respirator. Yet when officials secure orders, especially for that last item, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said they're often told at the last minute that it won't be arriving as promised.

"Virtually every order that we and any other state is putting in is getting bought out either by the federal government or being sent directly to one of the hotspots that's out there," the governor told reporters Saturday.

That's led to persistent delays in setting up drive-up testing in the state.

Meanwhile, individual companies seeking the protective gear are also ratcheting up demand, even as some employees question whether they're providing an essential service.

WUKY spoke with one such clinic worker. The employee, whose voice was disguised for air, said the vast majority of diagnosis and treatment at the allergy and asthma treatment provider could be performed and ordered remotely, but the company is keeping its doors open and putting its name on the list for the sought-after equipment.

"Overall, I feel like we are ordering a lot of PPE that the hospitals need," the employee said.

The skyrocketing demand has pushed Kentucky down two additional routes: working with manufacturers to produce PPE for the state, and asking companies and individuals to donate at 1 (833) GIVE-PPE.