Call for transparency regarding stockpiled personal protective equipment


State delegation requests a full accounting of federal PPE distribution

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall, D-N.M. and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Deb Haaland, D-N.M. and Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M. urged officials in the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  to distribute adequate supplies of personal protective equipment  from the Strategic National Stockpile  to New Mexico so the state and its Native communities may properly prepare for the coming winter months. New Mexico is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 infections, as its rate of new infections is one of the highest in the country.

In a joint letter, the New Mexico delegation emphasized the need to provide personal protective equipment for the 23 Tribes and Pueblos across New Mexico that have been hit disproportionately hard by the coronavirus.

The New Mexico delegation previously called on the Trump Administration to release the state of New Mexico’s full allotment in March after the state only received 25 percent of the total equipment it requested.

As flu season approaches and the COVID-19 infection rate continues to hit record highs in New Mexico, the state and Tribal governments combating the simultaneous spikes in flu and COVID-19 cases will require a significantly greater amount of equipment to protect frontline health care workers and essential workers as they care for hospitalized patients.

“While access to PPE has stabilized somewhat over the past several months, we remain concerned that these early failures of the SNS to meet New Mexico’s needs will repeat themselves as case numbers once again begin to spike,” the delegation wrote. “New Mexico is already experiencing a troubling spike in new COVID-19 infections and has set a new daily record for infections three times in the past week [week of Oct. 19]. Hospitalizations are up 74 percent, and some of our hospitals are beginning to reach capacity. The rate of new infections is now among the highest in the country and coincides with the first report of confirmed flu cases in the state on Oct. 15, 2020.”

“As the U.S. enters ‘Flu Season,’ states and Tribes will need to deal with an anticipated rise of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza cases peaking at the same time as cold weather forces more people indoors,” the delegation continued. “Combatting both illnesses will require a more significant amount of PPE and coordination than what we have seen to date. Given the current situation, our state and Tribal communities will need to leverage every resource to ensure that patients and our front line health workers are protected.

“As such, it is essential to our constituents’ public health that the State of New Mexico and the twenty-three Tribes and Pueblos in New Mexico can rely on sufficient amounts of PPE from the SNS to deal with a surge in both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza cases in the coming months,” the delegation concluded.

The delegation further requested that FEMA and HHS provide answers about the quantity of PPE allocated for New Mexico’s state and Tribal governments and the federal agencies’ plan to distribute the necessary equipment if New Mexico experiences a surge in cases.