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Maine CDC, congressional delegation decry 'paltry' PPE supply shipment from FEMA to battle coronavirus

Washington Post reports, Maine received only about 5% of the N95 PPE masks requested, while some states received far more aid during COVID-19, coronavirus outbreak

PORTLAND, Maine — Editor's note: You are hearing the term 'flattening the curve' as a way to stem the tide of coronavirus cases. The above video explains what that means.

The Maine Center for Disease Control said Monday it was distributing the state's second shipment of N95 masks and other personal protective equipment received from the federal government -- a shipment director Dr. Nirav Shah said was "paltry" compared to the amount requested to help combat COVID-19, coronavirus. 

Early Monday evening, the Maine CDC confirmed that a third shipment had arrived in the state. Shah said that third shipment of procedure masks, face shields and other supplies to combat the coronavirus pandemic would be all Maine sees from the federal government for a long time.

On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that Maine had received only 5 percent -- 25,558 -- of the N95 masks the state requested. Other states received far more. Florida received more than the 430,000 surgical masks it requested in three days, according to the report, with another shipment days later and a third expected.

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The Maine CDC had been told the shipment arriving Monday evening would include 60,000 N95 masks, but Shah said it was still insufficient.

"While these additional allotments of PPE from the strategic national stockpile may help alleviate some of the short-term needs that we know are out there, that the health care workers who I've mentioned are contending with ... it's difficult to say whether it will be enough,” Shah said. “Maine has received a paltry amount of PPE in comparison to what we've asked for."

In a letter Monday evening to Chad F. Wolf, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Maine's Congressional delegation wrote that it is "deeply concerned" about the shortages of PPE and testing supplies the state has received from the Strategic National Stockpile.

"As the oldest state in the nation by median age, Maine is particularly vulnerable to the direst impacts of COVID-19," the letter states. "The state’s proximity to more densely populated areas with active hotspots also makes it a potential refuge destination and increases the risk of spread."

The delegation pointed to specific comments by President Donald Trump that suggested more help is available.

"In his March 26th press briefing, President Trump announced that there is discretion to send the SNS supplies 'directly to the point where we want [them]'" the letter states. "The President also stated that FEMA has tremendous amounts of equipment coming in and that it is sending more PPE out every day."

During a press call with the AARP Maine on Monday, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said Maine companies such as L.L. Bean and Sea Bags “really stepped up” by shifting production to make the N95 masks.

Gov. Janet Mills on Monday reiterated to the Trump administration the need for more PPE and testing supplies, and the Maine Emergency Management Agency and Maine CDC continue attempts to secure more supplies through FEMA, the U.S. CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Mills' spokesman Scott Ogden said Monday afternoon.

But Shah said the state must look at "other strategies" to address the pandemic.

"These additional allotments will help us but they still remain insufficient," he said. "We are still trying to work with the federal government to determine what other allotments may be made. The federal government, as is the state of Maine, is also trying to increase production. Our view within the state of Maine is we also have to look at other strategies."

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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