FEMA director promises masks are coming, but is light on details

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor promised on Sunday that more masks and health care supplies were being shipped out to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but would not go into details about when the masks would arrive or provide any specific numbers.

Speaking during an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Gaynor attempted to assuage the growing concerns across the country that health care workers – especially in virus hotspots like New York and California – could soon run out of supplies as the crisis worsens.

“They have been distributed. They've been distributed over the past couple of weeks. They're shipping today. They'll ship tomorrow,” Gaynor said.

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When pressed by ABC’s Martha Raddatz about whether the masks would arrive at facilities before the health systems in hard-hit areas run out, Gaynor deferred the question.

"I mean, it is hundreds of thousands of millions of things that we're shipping from the stockpile. I can't give you the details about what every single state or what every single city is doing," he responded. “But I'm telling you that we are shipping from our national stockpile, we're shipping from vendors, we're shipping from donations. It is happening. The demand is great."

The White House coronavirus task force announced on Saturday that 600 million N95 respirator masks had been ordered, but could not give an exact date of when they will reach health care workers.

Gaynor called the shortage of medical supplies “a global problem” and said that every country around the world is trying to deal with the pandemic.

“We’re going to try to meet every need in the nation,” he said. “But a word of caution: the supplies that governors are looking for are the same supplies that every other country in the world is looking for, so this is a global problem,” he said.

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Johns Hopkins reports there have been about 13,000 deaths globally. The United States has seen more than 280 deaths so far. Italy, which has Europe’s largest outbreak, now has at least 4,825 dead.

For most people, the new virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority recover.

But the virus is spreading at a rapid rate, jolting the global economy and starting to max out the health care system in several cities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.