Biden Attacks Trump Over Masks but They Were Depleted Under Obama and Never Restocked

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Vice President Joe Biden, participates in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN Studios, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

One of the things that’s not really been recognized or appreciated by media about the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus is what President Donald Trump and the White House Task Force had to deal with when this whole thing hit.

While they got an early aid by Trump cutting off travel from China, there were challenges because of rules and regulations within the CDC and the FDA that slowed getting tests out initially.

But one other question has been the availability of the special N95 respirator masks that are effective against the virus and other personal protective equipment that might be in short supply if the system gets really overloaded.

Joe Biden, who seems barely able to keep himself awake sometimes, fumbled his way through a couple of interviews speaking from his home today. One, on The View, was just a mess, as my colleague Bonchie covered. In the other, with MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace, Biden spoke about ventilators and masks, criticizing the President, saying that we should be making those masks, we should be moving on those ventilators. He then says that was a “stupid” way to say it, as Wallace beamed at the comment.

But the reason we don’t have the respirator masks goes back to the Obama/Biden administration when they were advised to replenish the stockpile that had been used during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

But it never happened, they never did it, according to the Washington Examiner:

The George W. Bush administration published the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza plan in 2005, which called on the federal government to distribute medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile governed by the Health and Human Services Department in the event of an outbreak.

In 2009, the H1N1 outbreak hit the United States, leading to 274,304 hospitalizations, 12,469 deaths, and a depletion of N95 respirator masks.

A federally backed task force and a safety equipment organization both recommended to the Obama administration that the stockpile be replenished with the 100 million masks used after the H1N1 outbreak.

Charles Johnson, president of the International Safety Equipment Association, said that advice was never heeded.

“Our association is unaware of any major effort to restore the stockpile to cover that drawdown,” he said.

According to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, there are only 12 million there now, when some estimates are that we might need 3.5 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Bloomberg News reported similar findings last week, noting, “After the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009, which triggered a nationwide shortage of masks and caused a 2- to 3-year backlog [of] orders for the N95 variety, the stockpile distributed about three-quarters of its inventory and didn’t build back the supply.”

But what Biden left out is that Trump has already been on the case of the ventilators and the masks.

Trump has employed the Defense Production Act to ask businesses to help make the protective equipment that will be needed to deal with anything that might be needed, as my colleague Sister Toldjah has reported. As she notes, Elon Musk donated thousands of masks this weekend. Trump has also asked the Defense Department to provide their supply to the cause to help out where needed, with 5 million N95 masks and 2000 ventilators in the meantime.

Actually it’s pretty astonishing and something one really can’t imagine Barack Obama doing.

Biden didn’t seem to be aware that Trump had already addressed the shortage or that the Obama/Biden administration was the reason for the shortage of masks because it dropped the ball.

It’s likely too much to expect that Nicole Wallace or other media would push back on Biden and ask why they failed to do their job and replenish the supply.