Personal protective equipment has been ordered and is en route to Arkansas, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson. During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Hutchinson told reporters that the federal government had supplied the state with equipment from its stockpile.
Twenty-four pallets of personal protective equipment were allocated for Arkansas from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile. Hutchison said the supplies arrived at 2 p.m. on Tuesday morning.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Public Health Emergency website, the Strategic National stockpile is the “nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.” The stockpile is used during public health emergencies when local supplies run out. The supplies sent to Arkansas included 27,800 N95 masks.
In an NPR interview, the Strategic National stockpile director Steven Adams said that there are approximately 30 million simple surgical masks and 12 million N95 masks in the stockpile reserves.
In addition, the state has ordered another 1 million units of personal protection equipment. This order was made in partnership through the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) procurement team. These supplies, Hutchinson said, are slated to begin arriving by the weekend.
These combined resources are expected to last health providers in the coming 60 days as they combat the coronavirus pandemic. However, Hutchinson noted that the usage estimate is based on the current rate of personal protective equipment usage. “Combined with what we’re receiving from the strategic stockpile with what we’re receiving from our order later this week for the state of Arkansas, this will cover us for the next 60 days at our current usage rate,” he said.
Personal protective equipment has become a hot-button topic since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe has spoken at multiple press conferences with Hutchinson, asking individuals to reach out to him or the state government if they had stockpiles of equipment. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has also contended with issues related to personal protective equipment and other necessary supplies, warning individuals and businesses that they could not charge more than 10 percent more than they previously did for supplies.
“The Governor has declared a state of emergency and our price gouging laws have gone into effect,” Rutledge said in a statement. “Businesses and individuals are not allowed to charge 10 percent more than they were before.”
As the number of positive cases increases and the rate of usage increases, he expects the supply of personal protective equipment to dwindle faster.
However, Hutchinson said that the state has time to prepare for this eventuality unlike other states. This additional time, he said, will allow the state to build its own stockpile. A recent WalletHub study showed that Arkansas had been one of the least aggressive states in containing coronavirus. The study ranked Arkansas 47th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“What we’re doing is preparing. While it has moved quicker in other states, here in Arkansas, we do have time to plan. We’re not going to be in the position of some others that we don’t have sufficient hospital beds. We’re looking at ways to bring others online in the event we get to that point. We’re looking at the issues of ventilators and respirators,” Hutchinson said. “We have time to build the stockpile on those different items of equipment that will be needed in the future.”