From Scramble to Surplus. COVID-19 Protective Gear

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in an unprepared U.S., many states scrambled for masks and other protective gear. Supplies were so limited in 2020 that the state bought millions of medical gowns and spent about $20 million to try to get personal protective equipment made in-state. Three years later, as the grips of the pandemic have loosened, states are now trying to deal with an excess of protective gear, ditching their supplies in droves. With expiration dates passing and few requests to tap into the stockpile, Ohio auctioned off 393,000 gowns for just $2,451 and ended up throwing away another 7.2 million, along with expired masks, gloves and other materials. The now expiring supplies had cost about $29 million in federal money. A similar reckoning is happening around the country. Items are aging, and as a deadline to allocate federal COVID-19 cash approaches next year, states must decide how much to invest in maintaining warehouses and supply stockpiles. An investigation found that at least 15 states, from Alaska to Vermont, have tossed some of their trove of PPE because of expiration, surpluses and a lack of willing takers. Into the trash went more than 18 million masks, 22 million gowns, 500,000 gloves, and more. That’s not counting states that didn’t give the exact figures or even responded. Rhode Island said it shredded and recycled 829 tons of PPE and Maryland disposed of over $93 million in supplies.