While U.S. President Donald Trump was telling the White House press corps Friday that “You don’t have to test every person in the state of Iowa,” the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) was issuing a “PPE shortage order,” intended to cope with the state’s dwindling supply of face masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
“While our hospital capacity and resources look good,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said at her morning press conference, “one issue that continues to be a challenge in Iowa and across the country is PPE.”
IDPH Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said the department was issuing the PPE shortage order because “we are preparing for a time when we might not have enough of these supplies.”
“We understand that people are scared,” Reisetter said. “We understand the issuance of this order may be unsettling but due to the global shortage of PPE supply, we have determined that now is the time to take this action.”
She said the PPE shortage order was based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “applies to health care providers, hospitals, health care facilities, clinics, local public health agencies, medical and response organizations” and anyone else using PPE in the course of caring for patients.
Reisetter said PPE supplies can be conserved, for example, “by minimizing patient contacts when possible and maximizing the way barriers and ventilation systems are used” and by encouraging patients to use something “other than a surgical face mask.”
She also recommended several “extended use guidelines” for saving PPE when demand exceeds supply: medical personnel can use masks beyond shelf life or expiration date and “not change face masks or respirators for each patient encounter” and “decrease the length of stay for COVID-19 patients if they’re medically stable.”
If the demand for PPE continues to exceed the supply, the IDPH will implement “crisis capacity standards,” Reisetter said, including “prioritizing face masks for essential activities that may involve direct infectious contacts,” reusing PPE or using it past its shelf life and considering alternative approaches, such as homemade masks.
While Iowa’s front-line medical personnel prepared to scramble for surgical masks, washable gowns and reusable eye protection, reporters asked Trump about the availability of novel coronavirus test kits.
“On March 6, you said anyone who wants a test can get a test,” a reported said. “Now you are saying that you would be open to reopening the government without having a national testing system. How do you square those two statements, given there are still issues with the testing going forward?”
Answering the nasty question from the terrible person, Trump said, “There is no issue. I got it. There is not a lot of issues with testing. Certain sections — we go to Iowa, Nebraska and, interestingly, Idaho is interesting. They had a few breakouts, but they are capable states, big distances, a lot of land. You don’t need testing there. Where you have a state with a small number of cases, some states with almost none. West Virginia for a long time had none. When you have that, you don’t need testing. You don’t have to test every person in the state of Iowa, as an example. You don’t have to test every person to say let’s open up and get the tractors moving, and let’s get the corn, and let’s open up all the different things they do in the great state. That being said, if there is a little hot corner someplace, we will be testing.”
“Remember this,” Trump said. “We have done more testing than any other country in the word, and we have the best test.”
According to data compiled by Our World in Data and Worldometer, the U.S. has administered the largest number of tests, but it has tested a much smaller fraction of its total population than some 38 other countries.
Reynolds thanked the IDPH for taking the “additional steps to preserve PPE supply during this time.”
“Our work is not yet done,” Reynolds said.