On March 30 FEMA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created a Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force, one of eight COVID-19 focused task forces under the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC).
This task force, which is tasked with closing the gap between what the private sector is able to provide to healthcare end-users and what is needed for the fight against COVID, is taking a “whole-of-America approach” to address limited supply of critical protective and life-saving equipment.
The task force’s primary effort is the sourcing of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other critical resources to requested by states, tribes and territories. In addition, the task force is engaging manufacturers, distributors and healthcare networks to build the next phase of supply chain stabilization
By using the structure of FEMA’s NRCC, the task force is finding and executing solutions to meet urgent demand and enable the U.S. Government to surge support to COVID-19 “hot spots” as they arise.
The strategy is executed through a four-pronged approach: Preservation, Acceleration, Allocation and Expansion to accelerate and expand the pipeline of medical supplies and equipment.
- Preservation to limit unnecessary use of PPE and other supplies. Developing guidance to prioritize the allocation and the most appropriate use of supplies for specific needs are critical components of this strategy.
- The task force is in the process of developing and verifying techniques to clean and recycle products.
- This line of effort also includes developing guidance to prioritize the allocation and the most appropriate use of supplies for specific needs, critical components of this strategy.
- The task force is also working to expand equipment resources through the Preservation line of effort. The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for ventilators on March 24, which allows anesthesia gas machines and positive pressure breathing devices to be modified for use as ventilators. The new guidance will also assist health care personnel on how to use other ventilators, like CPAP devices for sleep apnea, with COVID-19 patients in respiratory distress, as well as on shelf life of existing ventilators.
Acceleration of industrial manufacturing is required to help meet the urgent demand placed on the market. Manufacturers are ramping up production of critical resources and have extended operating hours to increase production well above pre-COVID-19 levels.
- To expedite purchasing, FEMA issued a request for quotation for vendors who have needed medical equipment and supplies to sell to the agency.
- FEMA is also expediting movement of critical supplies from the global market to medical distributors in various locations across the U.S.
- As an example of this effort, FEMA coordinated an air bridge for flights from Asia beginning Sunday, March 29 which delivered 80 tons of much-needed PPE supplies to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
- The second flight landed in Chicago this morning. FEMA has scheduled additional flights and is adding more daily.
- Each flight will contain critical PPE (gloves, gowns, goggles, and masks) in varying quantities. FEMA will not have detailed visibility on the amount of PPE until the flights are loaded overseas.
- Upon arrival, PPE will be provided, in varying quantities, first to medical distributors in areas of greatest need; then, the remainder will be infused into the broader U.S. supply chain. Prioritization will be given to hospitals, health care facilities, and nursing homes around the country.
- Additionally, in some cases, the federal government may purchase some of the supplies to provide to states with any identified and unmet needs.
- To address the anticipated ventilator shortage across the nation, the task force has implemented a similar strategy, leveraging the strengths of the commercial industry Including numerous vendors, such as General Electric, Phillips, Medtronic, Hamilton, Zoll, ResMed, Hillrom and Vyair, to produce 20,000 ventilators over the next two months with the potential to add 100,000 by end of June. This represents a significant increase in velocity as the normal annual market is 30,000 per year.
- Expansion of the industry is also taking place. Manufacturers are enhancing production capacity with additional machinery, and in some cases re-tooling assembly lines to produce new products needed.
- As an example of this work, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is providing information for manufacturers on adding production lines or alternative sites, like automobile manufacturers, for making more ventilators during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- In addition, the task force is working through over 350 leads to match American businesses who have excess raw materials, workforce or factory production capacity combined with an overwhelming desire to provide their support to the national response effort.
- Taskforce members are actively working to facilitate the creation of private-sector partnerships to pair companies that have volunteered excess factory production capacity, the talents of their workforce and access to their raw material supply chains with critical supply manufacturers who have the expertise in producing PPE, ventilator and other needed equipment.
- The creation of these partnerships to align capacity with know-how will unleash the potential engine of our national private sector and help overcome the supply shortfalls.
- Allocation of critical resources based on data-informed decisions. These decisions will be coordinated between the U.S. Government and the private sector.
- FEMA is focusing its allocation of critical resources to highly impacted areas experiencing the greatest increase in COVID-19 transmission and the greatest increase in forecasted capacity shortfalls, with consideration to the at-risk population distribution across the Nation.
- To more effectively adjudicate resources throughout the nation and private industry, a National Resource Prioritization Cell was established to unify government and private industry prioritization recommendations which will inform federal, state and private sector operations.