Did the Obama Administration Leave the N95 Mask Inventory Depleted?

Posted: Mar 23, 2020 1:30 PM
Did the Obama Administration Leave the N95 Mask Inventory Depleted?

Source: (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

As healthcare workers in hospitals across America scramble to find N95 masks to protect against Wuhan coronavirus, the federal government is working with the private sector to produce them as quickly as possible. 

"The outpouring from the private sector has also been extraordinary.  I'm pleased to report that Honeywell, great company, has just announced it will immediately expand its personal protective equipment manufacturing operations in Rhode Island to produce millions of additional N95 masks. They’re very hard to get. They're actually quite complex. For the U.S. government’s Strategic National Stockpile. They'll be immediately then delivered to the various states," President Trump said at the White House Sunday. 

But according to a new piece in the Washington Examiner, which pulls information from the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News, the Obama Administration failed to replenish the government's N95 stockpile after the H1N1 swine flu outbreak of 2009. 

The national shortage of N95 respirator masks can be traced back to 2009 after the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, when the Obama administration was advised to replenish a national stockpile but did not, according to reports from Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times.

In 2009, the H1N1 outbreak hit the United States, leading to 274,304 hospitalizations, 12,469 deaths, and a depletion of N95 respirator masks.

A federally backed task force and a safety equipment organization both recommended to the Obama administration that the stockpile be replenished of the 100 million masks used after the H1N1 outbreak, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Charles Johnson, president of the International Safety Equipment Association, said that advice was never heeded.

“Our association is unaware of any major effort to restore the stockpile to cover that drawdown,” he said.

Meanwhile former Vice President Joe Biden, who caused a public panic during the swine flu outbreak, is doing his best to stay releveant while President Trump manages the crisis.