Federal PPE supplies for Oklahoma come in short and expired

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Department of Health has only received a small percentage of PPE equipment requested from a federal stockpile to date, and everything that was sent is technically expired.

On March 11, the state requested items that include 500,000 N95 masks, 300,000 face shields, 400,000 gowns and 500,000 surgical masks. The request was made for the Strategic National Stockpile. State health officials said the numbers were requested based on population.

A few days later, a shipment came, but only about 10 percent of what was requested came. According to the OSDH, everything that arrived is expired.

In a letter to the state, the federal government authorized the use of the expired equipment. The letter states the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health tested the expired N95 masks, and “this testing indicates that the select models of N95 respirators shown below have been found to continue to perform in accordance with NIOSH performance standards.”

It goes on to state that “In the face of this emergency, the U.S. Government believes that the N95 respirators past their manufacturer designated shelf life will provide greater protection than surgical masks (i.e. medical masks), other masks not evaluated or approved by NIOSH, improvised mouth and nose covers (e.g. bandanas) or no protection at all.”

By the publication of this story, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has not responded to questions News 4 asked regarding the equipment supply.

OSDH officials said during this critical time, equipment from the Oklahoma Strategic National Stockpile is being distributed to hospitals that have ICU services, as well as those that are treating people being tested for COVID-19 or those who have tested positive.

Earlier this week, OSDH sent three days’ worth of supplies to hospitals in Washington County, Cleveland County and Tulsa County “as a stop-gap” until hospitals’ normal shipments arrive.

An OSDH health official also said the state’s reserves have been largely from the federal government. However, Governor Stitt directed the state to “aggressively pursue” PPE equipment from private manufacturers, and that a multi-million dollar PPE order that was placed could arrive in up to two weeks.

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