USA Today fact-checks claim Obama administration failed to resupply depleted stockpiles

by WorldTribune Staff, April 5, 2020

Claims that the Obama administration used and did not replenish the nation’s emergency stockpile of medical supplies, including N95 masks, are true, according to a USA Today fact check.

‘The Obama administration significantly depleted the federal stockpile of N95 respirator masks to deal with the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009 and never rebuilt the stockpile despite calls to do so.’

“There is no indication that the Obama administration took significant steps to replenish the supply of N95 masks in the Strategic National Stockpile after it was depleted from repeated crises,” USA Today said on April 4. “Calls for action came from experts at the time concerned for the country’s ability to respond to future serious pandemics. Such recommendations were, for whatever reason, not heeded.”

Reports from several outlets last month focused on the Obama administration’s role in using and allegedly failing to replenish the federal stockpile of N95 masks.

“The Obama administration significantly depleted the federal stockpile of N95 respirator masks to deal with the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009 and never rebuilt the stockpile despite calls to do so,” The Daily Wire reported.

According to Bloomberg News, “after the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009, which triggered a nationwide shortage of masks and caused a 2- to 3-year backlog orders for the N95 variety, the stockpile distributed about three-quarters of its inventory and didn’t build back the supply.”

On April 1, President Donald Trump said during a coronavirus briefing that the country’s stockpile of personal protective equipment, including medical gear like N95 masks, is almost depleted.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the stockpile has been used at least 13 times since its creation, including during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and 2001 anthrax attacks. Also during the George W. Bush administration, the national stockpile was deployed in response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and then again for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008.

“In 2005, the Bush administration published a report that urged investment in local and national stockpiles, increasing domestic production capacity and coordinating research efforts toward cures and vaccines. In 2006, Congress approved expanding the stockpile to include protective gear like N95 surgical masks,” USA Today noted.

During the presidency of Barack Obama, “the national stockpile was seriously taxed as the administration addressed multiple crises over eight years,” the USA Today report said.

About “75 percent of N95 respirators and 25 percent of face masks contained in the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile were deployed for use in health care settings over the course of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic response,” according to a 2017 study in the journal Health Security.

According to NIH, the stockpile’s resources were also used during hurricanes Alex, Irene, Isaac and Sandy. Flooding in 2010 in North Dakota also called for stockpile funds to be deployed. The 2014 outbreaks of the ebola virus and botulism, as well as the 2016 outbreak of the zika virus, “continued to significantly tax the stockpile with no serious effort from the Obama administration to replenish the fund,” the USA Today report said.


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