Meanwhile, the U.S. finds itself in a paradox. The more N95s are rationed to alleviate a perceived shortage, the fewer masks are actually reaching the front lines.
N95s still appear on the FDA shortage list, in part because of reports from doctors and nurses who say they still don’t have enough. The American Hospital Association also says there’s a scarcity of N95s, citing global demand. But the government shortage list triggers distributors to limit how many masks they can sell to each hospital.
“The concept is similar to when trading is halted on Wall Street,” said David Hargraves, senior vice president of supply chain for Premier, a group purchasing organization that helps buy equipment and supplies for thousands of hospitals across the U.S. “You put the protective allocation in place to prevent folks from hoarding and overbuying, therefore exacerbating the shortage situation.”
But without clear guidance, hospitals are left to make their own decisions.