W. Virginia spent relatively little on protective equipment against viruses

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – West Virginia, the latest state to report a coronavirus case, spent relatively little protective medical equipment in the first months of the pandemic compared to other states , according to an analysis by the Associated Press.

While other states have spent tens of millions of dollars, sometimes trusting new companies that haven’t delivered promised orders, West Virginia has mostly spent on a handful of distributors. He didn’t buy any fans.

State purchase orders given to AP via a public documents request show West Virginia has spent less than $ 3.6 million on masks, gloves, gowns and other protective gear since the start of the pandemic until the end of spring.

Lawrence Messina, spokesperson for the state’s response to the pandemic, said on Saturday that the state had spent more than $ 8 million until early May on protective gear linked to the outbreak virus. The additional expenses were not included in the public records provided to AP.

The AP found that states across the country spent more than $ 7 billion on personal protective equipment and high-demand medical devices such as ventilators and infrared thermometers this spring. The data, obtained through open registration applications, is the most comprehensive snapshot yet of how much states were buying, who they were paying, and how much they were spending as they rushed to stockpile scarce supplies.

The data covers the period from the emergence of COVID-19 in the United States in early 2020 until late spring, when many governors described the protective equipment and medical equipment market as the Wild West. Supplies often went to the highest bidder, even if they were promised to someone else.

“Given the global reach of the pandemic, West Virginia was buying whatever it could once a potential supplier was vetted and determined to be trustworthy,” Messina said. “It is no exaggeration that the shortage is global. As a result, West Virginia had to consider companies that could obtain PPE from overseas. “

The state of nearly 1.8 million people only reported cases of the virus on March 17. Republican Governor Jim Justice announced a stay-at-home order a week later.

That day, the state placed an order of more than $ 1.1 million for 200,000 N95 masks from Martinsburg-based Ballard Safety, according to the records. He paid an average of $ 5.80 for each mask, which before the pandemic could cost around 50 cents. This spring, states paid an average of $ 3 each, according to the AP analysis.

Two days later, the state placed a much cheaper order for 400,000 N95 masks. This time, he paid the industrial supplies company Fastenal just 87 cents per mask.

West Virginia did not have 10,000 confirmed cases until the end of August, and the epidemic has worsened considerably since then. Daily case totals have broken records several times in recent weeks. Confirmed and probable deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 1,000 this week. There have been nearly 57,900 confirmed cases.

Most of the state’s three dozen orders at the start of the period went to Ballard Safety, with the initial order for expensive masks, and Fastenal, where it spent a total of $ 1.5 million to purchase masks, goggles, gloves and N95 and KN95 coveralls.

West Virginia spent 77 cents to nearly $ 6 on N95 masks at three vendors, according to data provided to AP. The most expensive item he bought was a single $ 226 thermometer from lab supplier Thomas Scientific.

Messina said Fastenal was initially “efficient at delivering small quantities” of items, but the state turned to suppliers capable of handling larger orders.

Other expenses in the PA analysis included:

– Almost $ 6,000 for 60,000 gloves from New York wholesaler DirectGlove.

– 20 thermometers purchased from Amazon for $ 92 each.

– Almost $ 245,000 on 42,600 N95 masks from Applya, a supplier based in Greenville, South Carolina. It costs $ 5.75 per mask.

– $ 55 for an allheart lab coat.

The state had a cache of gloves, gowns, coveralls, N95 respirators and safety glasses left over from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, Messina said. He said the state had also received personal protective equipment from the federal government’s stockpile and had enough ventilators in reserve.

“We believe that we have a strong safety stock for the state and that the medical supply system is catching up,” Messina said.

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