BY: OLIVIA RUBIN, KATHERINE FAULDERS, SOO RIN KIM, and LAURA ROMERO
(WASHINGTON) — During his first coronavirus press briefing in nearly three months, President Donald Trump said his administration had filled every single request it has received from the nation’s governors for supplies to battle the coronavirus. But contrary to Trump’s claim, officials in 14 states told ABC News they still have requests pending for critical equipment as the virus spreads through much of the country.
“My administration currently has zero unfilled requests for — unfulfilled requests for equipment or anything else that they need from the governors,” Trump said on Tuesday. “No governor needs anything right now and we think we’ll have it that way until the end because frankly we are stocked up and ready to go.”
However, nearly half of the state officials with whom ABC News spoke, some of which are in states seeing a rise in coronavirus cases, said they’ve asked for a range of supplies, from thousands of N95 masks and ventilators to COVID-19 testing equipment, which have run in critically short supply in some areas. For this report ABC News reached out to officials in all 50 states, and 29 provided relevant responses to questions about supply orders.
Officials in Oregon, Indiana, Georgia, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, North Carolina, Maryland, Michigan, Idaho, Utah and Washington each told ABC News they are either waiting for requests to be fulfilled, had identified orders that were never filled at all or have made recent requests that they understand are being processed.
Other states, including especially hard-hit California, Arizona and South Carolina, said they had no outstanding orders with the government. Florida and Texas were among those that did not respond to ABC News’ request for information.
Of those that have open requests, Mississippi, which set a new record in the state for coronavirus cases and hospitalizations on Tuesday, is waiting on 2,100 ventilators, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Malary White told ABC News.
Several states said they are waiting for orders for personal protective equipment, known as PPE, which has been in short supply throughout the pandemic and critical for responders on the front lines.
Maryland Department of Health spokesperson Ebony Wilder told ABC News it is waiting on two unfulfilled orders for small N95 masks and “oxygen assemblies” equipment, noting there “appears to be a nationwide shortage of both items.” Indiana still hasn’t received some of the gloves, masks, gowns and aprons it requested, according to Megan Wade-Taxter, a spokesperson for the Indiana health department.
Wyoming is awaiting 74,000 surgical gowns, state homeland security department spokesperson Kelly Ruiz said.
Some officials in states that are awaiting supplies expressed patience with the federal government.
Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp is a vocal supporter of the president, has requested 700,000 N95 masks, though Candice Broce, a Kemp spokesperson, told ABC News the Trump administration was on it.
“The Trump administration has been an invaluable partner in Georgia’s fight against COVID-19,” Broce said. “All of our requests are either being actively worked on by our federal partners or [are] already fulfilled.”
A spokesperson for Alaska’s emergency management department said that the state’s “every request has not been fulfilled,” but noted it’s “not unusual as Alaska, and many other states, are requesting materials that are in limited supplies.”
“The state has requested and received a massive amount of goods from the federal government. We continue to request and receive PPE, equipment, supplies and other assistance,” Jeremy Zidek said, adding that the resources the state has received from the federal government and other sources have led to an increased health care and testing capacity.
A spokesperson for Idaho’s emergency management agency said some of the state’s requests were currently “under review,” but largely praised FEMA for doing an “excellent job” and working “side-by-side” with the state.
A health official in North Carolina told ABC News that the state is “pleased” they have been able to work with the federal government, but noted that so far the state has only received about half of their July allocation for coronavirus testing swabs and other testing supplies. The federal government did meet its goal for supplies in May and June.
Officials from some Democrat-led states were less charitable with the delays five months after the start of the pandemic.
“Woefully insufficient support from the federal government in terms of testing supplies has hampered our ability to expand Oregon’s testing capacity,” said Charles Boyle, the press secretary for Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. “We have received far less than what other states have.”
That state’s latest request for testing supplies from earlier this month is “still pending,” Boyle said. ABC News has previously reported that issues with testing availability and access have once again arisen in nearly every aspect of the testing supply chain, a troubling echo of the shortages that plagued the nation’s initial response to the virus months ago.
A spokesperson for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, called the president’s claim “misleading rhetoric.”
“If there are no outstanding requests for PPE, it’s because the federal government largely stopped filling those requests months ago when the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) was emptied,” Mike Faulk, the communications director for Inslee, said. “Since then, the Trump administration has forced states into the private market to secure critically needed PPE. President Trump told governors he didn’t want to be a ‘shipping clerk."”
FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor on Wednesday tried to explain the PPE shortages that still persist five months into the pandemic.
“There may be places that have high cases, high hospitalizations that do have some shortages” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “We’re in a much better place and we can move PPE from around the country to where it’s needed the most.”
“Sir, it’s not that there may be, there are,” Cecilia Vega, ABC Senior White House Correspondent, responded. “There are doctors and nurses who do not have gear on the front lines right now.”
“If there is a hospital out there that does not have PPE, contact their state emergency manager, contact their state health director, and we will get PPE to you,” Gaynor said.
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