U.S. Customs and Border Protection has 1.5 million N95 masks sitting in an Indiana warehouse. The government hasn’t been willing to release them to anyone because they are ‘expired’ though the Centers for Disease Control guidelines has “issued [guidelines] for their safe use.” A senior official confirms “the masks in CBP storage are in usable condition” and are superior to having to re-use masks, something hospitals are now facing.
The masks and other protective gear are in such short supply at some New York City hospitals that staff have been wearing plastic garbage bags and other improvised equipment as they hope to ward off infection while treating patients.
And after discussions about what to do with the masks on Wednesday, it was concluded that “CBP has no plans to offer the masks to hard-hit hospitals, or hand them over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency…” Instead those will be given to the TSA. TSA screening is down over 80% since the beginning of the month.
TSA confirmed it has received an offer for a large quantity of N95 masks from CBP and that they will be distributed to airports as needed.
While hospitals are in desperately short supply, protective equipment is back ordered, Customs and Border Protection is busy acquiring another 1.5 million N95 masks that will replace those in storage.