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Trump Meets Blueflame Spokesman Mike Singletary as Millions Lose CARES Aid

Trump Meets Blueflame Spokesman Mike Singletary as Millions Lose CARES Aid

President Trump makes headlines as the next election looms, unemployed Americans lose special jobless benefits, and the coronavirus pandemic drags on. 

As the COVID-19 death rate in the United States surpassed 150,000, President Trump had a notable week. The POTUS met with ex-NFL coach Mike Singletary, spoke out regarding the death of Herman Cain, and suggested a delay to the upcoming election. Meanwhile, millions of unemployed Americans lost $600 per week aid payments this past week. 

POTUS meets Mike Singletary, speaks out about the death of Herman Cain 

Early in the pandemic, National Football League Hall of Fame player and coach Mike Singletary threw his support behind Blueflame Medical. On Thursday, Singletary met with Trump aboard Air Force One. While it is unclear what the two spoke about, Singletary has been outspoken in his support for front-line workers, saying, “It’s time to re-evaluate our priorities. Those on the frontline have previously been overlooked. They now have emerged as true heroes to protect us all, so we must shift our focus to our first responders, our healthcare workers, and those on the frontline. This unseen enemy is trying to knock us down, yet we have the chance to not only rise up, but rise up as a stronger, more unified nation.” 

Following the meeting, Trump tweeted, “Great to spend time with Mike Singletary while going to Texas. He’s one of the greatest football players ever — A strong man and a really good person. Great being with you Mike!” 

Trump also responded to the COVID-related death of former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who was hospitalized with the novel coronavirus two weeks after attending a Trump campaign rally in Tulsa. Cain’s death has prompted both sorrow and widespread criticism, as he was pictured without a mask at the rally. However, the White House and others have denied any conclusive evidence that that is where Cain contracted the virus.  

Trump floats idea of delaying November’s election 

Amidst concerns about the safety of in-person voting, many lawmakers have suggested mail-in voting. In response, Trump tweeted Thursday, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” 

Lawmakers on both sides of the isle were quick to counter, calling a delay unnecessary and reminding Americans that only Congress, not the President, has the power to make such a move. Texas GOP Representative Michael Burgess condemned the idea, saying, “This country has voted through all kinds of turmoil and trouble in the past. The country was able to vote during the Civil War, able to vote through two world wars and a previous pandemic.”  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed this response, stating, “Never in the history of this country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time. We will find a way to do that again this November 3.”  

With other high profile Republicans, such as Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott, quick to squelch the idea of a delay, not to mention many Democrats doing the same, the issue of holding the election in a fair, safe manner nevertheless remains.  Around the world, other countries, including Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, have opted to postpone elections in light of the pandemic.  

Millions lose benefit as CARES Act expires 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in March 2020, has been putting an extra $600 per week into the pockets of some 25 million unemployed Americans. That benefit, however, came to an end on July 31, when the CARES Act expired. Some individuals stand to lose as much as 93% of their unemployment income. 

While Congress seeks to put a new plan in place, job prospects remain grim in a severely struggling economy. In the weeks following the pandemic’s arrival, the U.S. unemployment rate went from half-century lows to nearly 15%, rates not seen since the Great Depression. 

As Americans shutter small businesses and struggle to find jobs, pay mortgages, and even put food on the table, the expiration of the CARES act underscores the dire need to get the economy moving once again. In fact, Josh Bivens, director of research at the Economic Policy Institute, has referred to the current labor market as “fundamentally damaged.” 

PPE remains a necessity on all fronts 

With election season looming on the horizon and desperate Americans seeking work, sufficient PPE supply remains critical for frontline workers, for businesses trying to rebuild, and for Americans whose vote this November feels all the more pressing in these uncertain times. Blueflame remains committed to doing its part to aid recovery by sourcing and distributing the highest quality PPE products at the best prices available.  

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New Data On COVID Risk and Recovery as Trump Urges Mask Wearing

Masks take the spotlight as new data emerges, showing a large portion of the United States at risk for severe COVID complications, while natural immunity amongst recovered patients remains in question. 

New Data On COVID-19 Risk and Recovery as Trump Urges Mask Wearing 

Nearly six months after the Trump administration declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, new data has emerged regarding the percentage of Americans at risk for severe COVID-related complications. Meanwhile, researchers continue to explore the efficacy of coronavirus antibodies to ward off reinfection. With the U.S. now reporting 4 million cases, President Trump has come out more strongly in favor of mask-wearing, and the efficacy of the controversial hydroxychloroquine is receiving new press.     

40 percent of Americans at Risk for Severe COVID-19 Complications 

A brand new report by the CDC says that roughly 40 percent of Americans have at least one underlying health condition that puts them at risk for severe complications due to the novel coronavirus. These chronic conditions include obesity, Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Early in the pandemic, data emerged showing the COVID-related death rate to be as much as 12 times higher amongst those with chronic health conditions compared to those without. Underlying conditions also significantly increase hospitalization rates.

Such chronic medical conditions where found to be more widespread in rural areas, and according to the study, “Counties with the highest prevalences of any condition were concentrated in Southeastern states, particularly in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia, as well as some counties in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and northern Michigan.”  

Studies Suggest a Moderate Level of COVID-19 Antibody Protection 

Early research has also suggested that those who recover from COVID-19 may lose their immunity within a matter of months, casting doubt on the development of herd immunity in the population. In some milder cases, no antibodies were detectable after 50 days. However, a more recent study out of Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York gives a somewhat more optimistic picture. Of nearly 20,000 people with mild or moderate illness, nearly 90% showed an antibody response of at least three months.  According to Florian Krammer, a scientist in the study, “It’s reasonable to assume that there will be protection for a time frame of one to three years.” 

Nevertheless, scientists are still looking to an eventual vaccine as the best hope for widespread immunity. Adrian Hill, the principal investigator for a promising vaccine study out of the University of Oxford, says, “We know from many other infections, the vaccine response can be much more durable than the natural infection response. I’m pretty confident that in COVID we’re going to see the vaccines are more durable than a natural COVID infection. But again, we don’t know yet. We need to wait and see.”  

Trump Promotes Mask-Wearing

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, President Trump, who did not appear publicly in a mask until July, has recently become more vocal about the importance of mask-wearing. During a recent press conference, Trump spoke of the uptick in cases, saying, “It will likely unfortunately get worse before it gets better,and voiced his support for masks, saying, “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact.” 

The president also tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask, calling mask-wearing “patriotic.” While cloth masks for the general public have become easier to find than they were in the early days of the pandemic, supply of hospital-grade masks, such as the N95, remain a great concern for many medical facilities and first responders in light of recent surges. Blueflame Medical is amongst those who have stepped into the fray to procure and distribute these high-demand pieces of PPE. 

Meanwhile, the drug hydroxychloroquin, touted by Trump, decried by others, has received new press. Harvey Risch, professor of epidemiology at the Yale school of Public Health, penned a piece advocating the use of hydroxychloroquine to improve health outcomes for COVID-19 patients, saying, “When this inexpensive oral medication is given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective, especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc.” 

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons has also filed new evidence with a federal court in an attempt to prevent FDA and Department of Health and Human Services interference with doctors’ use of the drug, saying, “As confirmed by another recent study of thousands of patients at the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, HCQ is both very safe and highly effective in treating COVID-19, reducing mortality by 50%. Countries with underdeveloped health care systems are using HCQ early and attaining far lower mortality than in the United States, where [HHS and the FDA] impede access to HCQ.” 

On the other hand, a study led by researchers out of Brazil and published in The New England Journal of Medicine claims the use of hydroxychloroquine does help COVID patients. 

A Serious Situation 

What is clear is that the novel coronavirus pandemic remains a serious situation that scientists, doctors, and politicians are trying to understand and deal with in real time. Also evident is the fact that life will not return to normal for a while, making the need for masks and PPE a long-term, critical need.     

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New Science Emerges as COVID Cases Surge and Schools Make Plans for Fall

New Science Emerges as Coronavirus Cases Surge, Schools Make Plans for Fall 

Amidst a nationwide surge in COVID-19, scientists are learning more about the activity of the virus and investing in new treatment options. Nevertheless, much uncertainty remains, with limitations on drug supply and questions about the financial resources required to head safely into fall.   

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, states across the nation report a continued surge in new cases. California alone saw a recent two-week infection rate increase of 43% with ICU admissions up 37%. Meanwhile, new science is painting a better picture of the virus and honing in on treatment while schools grapple with how to safely educate students in the fall. 

 

Recent Discoveries Provide Better Understanding of COVID-19

In Spain, one of the hardest-hit European countries, new data suggests that only 5% of the country’s residents have developed antibodies through exposure to the virus, leaving 95% of the population susceptible to illness. Similar studies in China and the United States also show that the vast majority of individuals remain vulnerable. By some estimates, a 60% exposure rate is necessary to develop herd immunity, but according to Isabella Eckerle, head of the Geneva Centre for Emerging Viral Diseases, and Benjamin Meyer, a virologist at the University of Geneva, “In light of these findings, any proposed approach to achieve herd immunity through natural infection is not only highly unethical, but also unachievable.” 

In addition, researchers have learned more about the behavior of the virus itself. A study out of UC San Francisco has determined that cells infected with COVID-19 grow arms, called filopodia, that reach into neighboring cells to infect them with the virus. While other viruses also replicate using filopodia, COVID-19 appears unusual in that it grows these tentacles so rapidly. 

Moreover, a mutated form of the virus, known as G614, appears to spread more rapidly than the earlier D614 variety, being three to nine times more infectious. It is now the dominant viral strain. Fortunately, while more infectious, this mutation does not appear to cause more severe illness. Theoretical biologist Bette Korber of Los Alamos National Laboratory indicates, “We interpret [the more rapid spread of G614] to mean that the virus is likely to be more infectious. Interestingly, we did not find evidence of G614 impact on disease severity.” 

Similarly, Lawrence Young, a professor of medical oncology at the UK’s University of Warwick, has said, “The current work suggests that while the G614 variant may be more infectious, it is not more pathogenic. There is a hope that as SARS-CoV-2 infection spreads, the virus might become less pathogenic.” 

 

Drug Remdesivir Shows Promise, Pricing and Supply an Issue 

Gilead Sciences has developed a new antiviral drug, called Remdesivir, which is the first to show effectiveness against COVID-19 in a large clinical trial, reducing patients’ recovery time by an average of four days. The drug works by disrupting the virus’s ability to replicate within the patient’s cells. 

Since its approval for emergency use in May, the U.S. Government has been distributing Remdesivir donated by Gilead. This month, though, Gilead will begin charging for the drug, which will cost U.S. hospitals an average of $3120 per patient. However, Gilead estimates a savings of $12,000 per patient in reduced hospitalization time. While some politicians have criticized the price of the drug, Steven D. Pearson, President of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, said in a written statement, “Gilead made a responsible pricing decision based on the evidence we have today. If further data do not show a clear mortality benefit for remdesivir, then the price of the drug should be dramatically reduced.”    

With the donated supply of Remdesivir now used up, the Trump administration has made a deal with Gilead to procure the first 500,000 doses, which amounts to all of July’s production and 90% of August and September’s. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar,  “President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19. To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs Remdesivir can get it.” 

Schools Make Plans for Fall 

As summer moves along and cases spike, educators are contending with the very real challenges that back-to-school will bring. In the Ivy League, Harvard has announced that the majority of classes will be taught online, with no reduction in tuition, and up to 40% of students may be allowed to live on campus.  Similarly, Princeton plans to offer mostly online instruction, but is offering a 10% tuition reduction and considering a plan to allow 50% of students back for a semester at a time during the coming school year. 

Other colleges and universities are likewise making plans, in many cases investing large sums of money to create a safe learning environment. Already facing budget crunches due to lower anticipated enrollment, these institutions are spending millions on everything from plexiglass barriers to face masks and other protective gear. The University of Southern Florida recently placed an order for 1,200 hand sanitizing stations, while Purdue University has budgeted $50 million dollars for safety gear and has begun a fundraising campaign to assist with the effort. Fortunately, supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are rising to meet the demand with new manufacturers and suppliers such as Blueflame Medical entering the fray.    

Blueflame Medical

Adding to budget concerns, schools must take on significant added cost to hire new, hourly employees to wipe down doorknobs and other surfaces throughout the day and to take the temperatures of all students and faculty entering buildings on campus, With the viability of sports, another significant source of revenue for universities in question, much uncertainty looms on the horizon this coming fall. 

Evidence of Progress and a Hopeful Outlook 

Even as cases spike, however, good news remains. With a better understanding of coronavirus and the development of promising treatments, plans to resume schooling reflect a certain optimism in our ability to manage this deadly pandemic and get on with life.    

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Americans Attempt to Resume Normalcy as COVID Cases Spike

Facemasks and other PPE remain critical as Americans seek to resume daily life and favorite summer pastimes amidst recent spikes in COVID-19 infection rates.  

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Americans Attempt to Resume Normalcy as COVID Cases Spike

Summer has officially begun. Lockdown restrictions are loosening nationwide, professional athletes are preparing to play, and lockdown-weary individuals are hoping to travel. Yet, despite these optimistic attempts to return to normal, some states are seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. In other instances, stores and venues reopened for business have been forced to pull back.

Meanwhile, airlines feel the pinch as summer travel operates at a fraction of its usual capacity, and eager travelers face frustration over quarantine waiting periods upon arrival. As athletes and eager fans prepare for opening day, Major League Baseball and the National Football League question whether their seasons will be a go.

 

Cases Spike in California, Florida, Others

In recent days, California has seen an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases. On Friday, June 19, California saw a record 4,317 new cases, topping the previous day’s record of 4,084. In response, California governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order requiring facemasks. North Carolina and the state of Washington have also followed suit with statewide mask mandates.

Florida has also experienced rapid COVID escalation, with a recent, single-day high of 5,506 cases. Despite Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ insistence that there is “plenty of hospital space,” other figures indicate that the number of available hospital beds in the state’s intensive care units has fallen to below 20%.

As the median age of infection in Florida has fallen, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida, Cindy Prins, believes improper adherence to social distance and mask-wearing is a factor, saying, ““I’m definitely seeing when I’m out and about that people are not necessarily adhering to social distancing guidelines, that they’re not necessarily wearing a mask or wearing it correctly.”

Similarly, Arizona has experienced rapid COVID escalation of late, with some hospitals nearing capacity and Governor Doug Ducey also issuing a facemask requirement. Ducey recently admitted, “I said two weeks ago that there is not a trend here. Looking at the last two weeks of data, there is a trend. And the trend is headed in the wrong direction and the actions we’re going to take are intended to change that direction and reverse this trend.”

Nevada and Texas have also seen recent infection-rate spikes.

Travel, Sports Face Uncertain Future

More than three months into the pandemic, Americans are eager to return to usual activities, hoping to watch sports and travel for business and pleasure. However, coronavirus spikes and other uncertainty shroud these activities. The aviation industry has been hit hard. Southwest Airlines has fared better than most airlines, but is still operating at only 40% of its usual capacity for this time of year.  Closed borders, a halt on business travel, and pocketbooks hit by recession are all factors in decreased travel. Moreover, leery travelers worry about safety due to lax enforcement of in-flight mask policies. Delta and American Airlines intend to remedy such laxity with strict, new policies of enforcement, while JetBlue, hopeful for a travel uptick, will reinstate some flights beginning in July and August.

Further complicating matters is the fact that many states have imposed quarantine measures for out-of-state travelers, reducing the appeal or practicality of interstate travel. Recently, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut announced a 14-day quarantine for any individuals traveling from viral hotspots, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas. These nine states are being monitored, with the potential to fall off that list if infection rates improve. Of course, other states could find their way onto the list if they experience similar spikes.

Another staple of summer, Major League Baseball, has faced uncertainty, missing its usual opening day and having proposed a shortened, 60-game season to begin July 19. However, the Philadelphia Phillies recently confirmed that five players and three staff are COVID-19 positive. As a result, the team closed its spring training facility indefinitely, casting an air of uncertainty over the viability of a 2020 season. As NFL teams begin to practice, in anticipation of a September 10 start date, White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has offered a grim prediction: “Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall.”

Retail Opens, and Closes

Over the past several weeks, many of the business that shut down in March have begun to reopen. In New Jersey, one of the areas hardest hit by illness, Governor Phil Murphy has announced a June 29 mall reopening, with stores at 50% capacity and face coverings required. New York is also preparing for its next opening phase, to include offices, in-store retail, hair salons, barbershops, real estate, and auto sales.

However, some stores that have resumed business are being forced to close again. Apple, which had reopened the majority of its stores, is one such business. The closures include eleven stores in hotspot states – Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and South Carolina. According to an Apple spokesperson, “Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas. We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible.”

Retail has been hit especially hard during the pandemic. Apple stock prices fell upon the announcements of these re-closures, while Triple Five Group missed a $7 million mortgage payment in June for its Mall of America in Minnesota.

PPE Still Necessary for Successful Reopening

A common thread as retail, travel, sports and other services seek to resume and stay open is the necessity of face-coverings. From tightened airline restrictions to mask-wearing mandates, protective face-coverings appear to be a feature of everyday life that is not going away anytime soon.

As certain industries reopen, demand for PPE has increased, but some businesses are finding the necessary equipment in short supply. According to Don Yoshikawa, a dentist in Huntington Beach, California, “It’s been impossible to get enough proper PPE equipment. My dental supply company has been on back-order for months.”

To meet the need for face masks and other PPE, companies such as Blueflame Medical have stepped in the gap to source and distribute these high-demand items. What is clear is that facemasks and other protective equipment will continue to be essential as Americans move to resume, and retain, their usual routines and activities.

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Contact Tracing and Testing Critical to Lifting Social Distancing Restrictions – Covid-19 News

As more and more states prepare to reopen segments of their economies in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, public health experts hail contact tracing and testing as vitally important. Tracing, combined with testing, will allow for isolation of Covid-positive patients, with or without symptoms. According to Dr. Ashish Jha, a physician and professor at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “If we don’t have extensive contact tracing in every community in America, it’s going to be really hard not to see this virus when we open back up.” 

In New York City, Major Bill de Blasio has likewise indicated that widespread testing and tracing of those who have been in contact with infected individuals will be central to lifting restrictions and reopening the city for business.  

What is Contact Tracing? 

What is contact tracing and how does it work? In short, contact tracing is identifying those with whom an infected individual has come into contact.  As simple as this may sound, developing contact tracing programs is a logistical challenge. Up to this point, most so-called ‘contact tracing’ has been word-of-mouth, with infected individuals reaching out to friends, family, and coworkers with whom they have been in close proximity. This strategy has its limitations, however, in that it relies upon memory and accurate reporting to be effective. In the current environment of social distancing, an individual may not want to admit to having been part of a large gathering.  Or, a person may have not known or remember all of the people with whom he or she has been in contact. 

In order to facilitate a more robust tracing system, technological solutions are in the works. Both Apple and Google are developing apps that users can download onto iphones or android phones. The app will send a beacon via Bluetooth, connecting with others also using the apps. This will build a network of contacts. If someone with whom a person has been in contact is later diagnosed with Covid-19, that person will receive an alert. While this system promises to provide a comprehensive body of data to monitor spread and trends, privacy concerns and willingness of the public to buy in will determine its effectiveness.     

Meanwhile, Salesforce has teamed up with the city of New York to create a contact tracing network that the city hopes will be up and running by the end of May. Major de Blasio stated, “It will allow us to track every case, analyze the data constantly, keep the right information on each and every case, [and] manage the whole process efficiently.”

States Prepare for Contact Tracing

Contact tracing programs have proved effective in places such as South Korea, while North Dakota and South Dakota are already using tracing apps to monitor the viral spread. New York City hopes that, by the end of June, it will have hired 2,500 “foot soldiers” as part of its “test and trace corps” in order to fully implement its tracing program. The state is also working to develop its own smartphone apps to help monitor the spread. 

As of May 7, 44 states around the nation, plus the District of Columbia, had indicated plans for contact tracing programs. These states indicate a combined need for 66,000 individuals, to include epidemiologists, nurses, and trained citizens, to form a contact tracing workforce. In Minnesota alone, the state anticipates the need for 4,200 individuals, for as long as 18 months, to make up its network of contact tracers. This would put the state health department at two and half times its current staffing level. 

Increased Testing Still Required 

Experts stress that states must also increase rates of testing alongside contact tracing. One research group, Harvard’s Global Health Institute, says that the U.S. should be doing more than 900,000 tests per days. According to the group, only 9 states are testing at the necessary level, with many others quite far from this target. 

Minnesota Department of Health Deputy Commissioner Margaret Kelly has indicated that, while already in the works, contact tracing is phase two of the battle against coronavirus, but phase one – testing – must still increase as part of the overall strategy.  In South Carolina, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) plans to nearly double its current test rate during May and June. According to DHEC agency director Rick Toomey, “It’s going to be a challenge. As we accelerate South Carolina and as we return to the new normal, however that is going to be defined, we and our partners will be expanding the testing.’’

Not only are state governors and health departments highlighting the need for further testing, business owners themselves are weighing in on the safest way to reopen their businesses.  From small mom and pop establishments to larger hotel conglomerates to behemoths such as Microsoft and Amazon, businesses have begun to plan for and implement employee test programs. According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “Regular testing on a global scale, across all industries, would both help keep people safe and help get the economy back up and running.” 

Conclusion

To reach these tracing and testing goals, local, state, and federal governments face obstacles such as funding and availability. Tracing programs will be expensive, and Covid test kits have not yet been available on the levels needed to meet such aggressive testing goals. Availability does continue to improve, as new tests are developed and new players enter the field, such as Blueflame Medical, which offers Covid-19 test kits alongside its PPE supplies. Still, the need for significant, coordinated effort looms as states pave the way for reopening with test and trace programs.

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PPE Shortage Threatens to Extend Lockdowns Worldwide – Covid 19 Update

As the Covid-19 pandemic has spread across the globe, experts cite PPE shortages as a major contributor to death rates and the need for strict lockdown measures. PPE, or personal protective equipment, includes items such as medical gloves, masks, eye protection, gowns, aprons, and respirators.  These items protect health care workers, who are in close proximity to the sickest patients, from disease. However, the shortage of necessary equipment has already contributed to sickness and death amongst this front-line group of workers. 

PPE shortages both in the United States and worldwide have necessitated social distance measures intended to stem the tide of viral spread, preventing already ill-supplied hospitals and hospital workers from being further overwhelmed by patient volume and exposure. As the economic and social impact of these lockdown measures take their toll, governments both at home and abroad seek to lift restrictions as soon as possible. Without the needed PPE in place, however, many find themselves extending, rather than loosening, social distance measures. 

As States Struggle to Reopen, PPE Shortages Hinder Progress 

In the United States, while some states have begun to relax stay-at-home measures and allow certain businesses to reopen, others have extended lockdown orders that were set to expire at the end of April. In several instances, hoped-for reopening dates hinge on the availability of PPE and other medical supplies, namely, Covid-19 test kits. In Michigan, one of the states hit hardest by the pandemic, concerned citizens have met to protest the state’s recent extension of its stay-at-home order, and the state legislature has taken steps to sue its governor. 

Amidst this unrest, however, Michigan’s Governor Whitmer cites a critical shortage of PPE in some areas, as well as the availability of test kits and other testing materials, such as swabs and chemical solution. According to Whitmer, “The CDC guidelines are that we should be testing between 1 to 2% of our population over the course of a week in order to have some confidence that it is safe to reopen. It’s [going to] be a little while before we get there.” 

In Grand Rapids, on the west side of the state, Tasha Blackman, CEO of Cherry Health told reporters that, while they have a sufficient number of test kits, they lack the number of gowns and N95 masks needed by medical personnel to increase their rate of testing. 

Michigan is not alone in its PPE requirements, with governors in other states also citing PPE equipment and testing ability as a central concern in the move to reopen. 

Countries Worldwide Announce Lockdown Extensions, Cite PPE Shortage

The PPE shortage is not just a concern for the United States, but worldwide. Countries such as India and Ireland recently announced extensions to their lockdown requirements, extending those measures until May 18. In Russia, President Vladamir Putin extended the lockdown to May 11, citing PPE shortage as a crucial factor. “Compared to before, [we’re producing] a lot. But compared what we need, it’s still not enough,” he said during a televised conference, adding, “Despite increased production, imports – there’s a deficit of all sorts of things.”                          

In Russia, which ranks 8th in the world for confirmed cases, medics have expressed concern about working without proper protective equipment, and doctors in Germany, to protest a similar lack of protective clothing and equipment, have launched a campaign called Naked Qualms in which health care workers post pictures of themselves naked. According to GP Ruben Bernau, “The nudity is a symbol of how vulnerable we are without protection.” 

Although some parts of the globe, like areas in the United States and Europe, have seen a flattening of curve, the coronavirus pandemic is just ramping up in other areas, like South America and Africa, meaning that demand for already-scare PPE supplies will only increase in many parts of the world.   

Economic Impact of Lockdowns

The economic impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns has and will continue to be significant.  According to the International Labour Organization, nearly half the world’s “informal workforce,” workers who are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable, without employment and wage protections, stand to see their livelihood destroyed.  In the first 6 weeks since the start of the pandemic, over 30 million people in the United States filed for unemployment benefits, while economists expect the economy to contract by 40% during the April-June quarter. Polling shows that consumer confidence is the lowest it has been in 6 years, and 1 in 5 employed Americans expect their incomes to decrease in the next 6 months.     

The economic impact has varied state by state, but amongst the hardest hit are Michigan and New Mexico. Michigan has fared worse than most states, and is looking at a $3 billion lose of revenue. New Mexico, one of the union’s smallest states population-wise, has been hit especially hit hard by plummeting oil prices, in addition to Covid-related job loss. While the state expects a $400 million budget deficit for 2020, projections for 2021 indicate a shortfall as large as $1.6 billion. 

With schools closed in all but a handful of states, working parents are 

struggling to work as much as usual, or at all. Getting students back in the classroom will be key in many families’ ability to maintain their income. 

Conclusion

With the need to increase the PPE supply at the center of ending lockdown restrictions, hospitals, doctor’s offices, local municipalities, and state and federal governments must be aggressive in seeking new sources of supply. Companies such as Blueflame Medical are stepping in to open up new supply lines to bring PPE and testing equipment to those in need. The availability of protective equipment will be fundamental to reopening the economy and in preventing further economic disaster abroad and domestically.   

PPE Shortages

To Reopen Economy, PPE Shortages Must Be Addressed

In the fight against Covid-19, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns is critical to protecting the wellbeing of health care and other front line workers. Nevertheless, from hospitals to fire stations, these items have been in short supply. Nationwide, as social distancing measures continue, local, state, and federal governments cite the necessity of PPE availability as they seek to reopen the economy. 

California was the first state to issue a stay-at-home order on March 19. Since then, the vast majority of states have followed suit with some measure of social distance mandates. While experts laud the efforts and indicate that we have seen a large measure of success in flattening the curve, the collateral has come in the form of significant job loss and economic stagnation. As states make plans to reopen their economies and businesses implement hygiene practices required to keep employees and patrons safe, PPE shortage remains a major concern. 

States’ Plans for Reopening Dependent on PPE supplies

Several states have planned, or have already begun, multi-phase easing of restrictions. In some cases, governors are making decisions on a county- by-county basis in coordination with local municipalities. These decisions hinge not only on infection rates, but also PPE supplies. In Oregon’s Deschutes County, for example, city officials feel confident that PPE supply level are adequate, though they still need more N95 masks. In Washington, Governor Inslee has extended the stay-at-home order through May 31, while outlining a 4-step plan for reopening. Ten counties with lower infection rates may apply for more rapid opening, provided PPE supplies and medical capacity remain adequate. 

New York, meanwhile, is devising a 12-step plan for reopening, but as yet remains unprepared, with too few masks and inadequate testing capacity. States such as Maine and Virginia have also begun to unveil their plans to reopen, with PPE being a central feature. In Maine, residents must wear face coverings, while health care providers that have heretofore been subject to lockdown must be sure to “manage the use of essential resources such as personal protective equipment and testing supplies” as they reopen.  Governor Ralph Northam of Virginiaexpressed confidence in his state’s progress as far as PPE supply and testing capacity, but has emphasized the need to maintain this stream of goods in order to successfully and fully reopen. 

Even Where Reopening Allowed, Many Businesses Delay Due to PPE Shortage 

Even as states make moves to lift restrictions, many business and industries are ill equipped to open their doors. In Georgia, one of the first states to lift its stay-at-home mandate, beauty salon owner Alyson Hoag says that she is not ready to reopen, even though the state has given her the green light. According to Hoag, “We need to be in protective gear. I need time to get the supplies and sterilize the studio.” 

Similarly, West Virginia businesses must provide appropriate PPE to employees as a condition of reopening, but many business owners cannot find these supplies due to the nationwide shortage. In Arizona, Green Valley Recreation, which owns and runs several recreation centers, says that PPE equipment required to open for business, which they ordered during the first half of March, still had not arrived as of May 1.

Some dental offices have likewise indicated that they cannot open due to insufficient PPE. The American Dental Association has published a guide for recommended PPE and cautioned dentists to consider the availability of these items before seeing patients again. 

Why the PPE Shortage?

Although the federal government maintains a stockpile of items such as respirators and ventilators, that supply has proven insufficient. For example, the stockpile includes 15,000 ventilators, but New York City alone expects to need 16,600. A further problem is the supply chain for obtaining such goods. Much of our needed medical equipment comes from China, and when the pandemic there began to spread, supply chains were disrupted as exports from China came to a halt. As conditions in China have improved, they have shipped items, such as masks, to other countries as part of goodwill packages, of which the United States has not been a recipient. 

While some companies stateside, such as Ford Motor Company, have converted their factories to produce these high-need goods, new business like Blueflame Medical have emerged as purveyors of PPE and Covid-19 testing equipment. Other efforts to extend current supplies include decontaminating and reusing items such as masks. 

Conclusion 

With joblessness, lost wages, and lockdown fatigue on the rise, private citizens as well as state and federal governments understand the urgent need to reopen the economy as soon as possible. Doing so safely, however, is key.  In addition to sickening workers, experts warn that moving too quickly without sufficient precautions risks undoing progress made in the fight against Covid-19, further extending the economic and social impact of this deadly pandemic. They say that increasing the availability of PPE is crucial to a safe and lasting reopening.