GAO report finds states still face critical medical supply shortages

Shortages of medical supplies are still hurting the U.S. response to COVID-19 nearly six months into the pandemic, according to a report released Sept. 21 from the Government Accountability Office. 

The report said that states are still facing shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies because of high demand and limited production of those items in the U.S.

Supply shortages persist despite “numerous, significant efforts” from the federal government, according to the GAO.

“Delays in processing test results have multiple serious consequences, including delays in isolating those who test positive and tracing their contacts in a timely manner, which can in turn exacerbate outbreaks by allowing the virus to spread undetected,” the report says. 

State officials told the GAO that they are still struggling to get answers from the federal government on supply requests, The Hill reported.  

The GAO recommended that HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency outline how the government will ease supply shortages and send those plans to state governments. The agencies could also help states track the status of supply requests from the federal government, the report said. 

The report also recommended the CDC collect better data about COVID-19 cases and deaths by race and ethnicity and stated that publicly available data is incomplete. 

HHS said the report was “incorrect,” but agreed with the recommendation for the CDC to collect better data. 

“Unfortunately, your report and recommendations prioritize anonymous anecdotes about minor and temporary coordination issues over a fair assessment of the federal government’s historic achievements in increasing supply availability and executing the logistics required to fill identified supply chain gaps,” Sarah Arbes, HHS assistant secretary for legislation said, according to The Hill.

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