Donald Trump recently accused Barack Obama's White House of failing to replenish the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Strategic National Stockpile of personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, after the H1N1 influenza pandemic that began in 2009. As reported by USA Today, there is no evidence that the Obama administration took "significant steps" to restock N95 masks after depletion.
"Calls for action came from experts at the time concerned for the country's ability to respond to future serious pandemics. Such recommendations were, for whatever reason, not heeded."The piece pointed to a 2017 study in the journal Health Security, which found that almost 75 percent of N95 respirators and 25 percent of face masks were used during the H1N1 pandemic. In addition to the swine flu crisis, the National Institutes of Health said that the stockpile was also depleted during hurricanes Alex, Irene, Isaac, and Sandy.
"The 2014 outbreaks of the ebola virus and botulism, as well as the 2016 outbreak of the zika virus, continued to significantly tax the stockpile with no serious effort from the Obama administration to replenish the fund," the USA Today report reads.Elsewhere, FactCheck claimed that the national stockpile contained "vast amounts of materials" that could be used during an emergency health situation. Such materials allegedly included protective gear, ventilators, anti-viral drugs, and vaccines.
Dr. Tara O'Toole, a former homeland security official during the Obama administration, said that the SNS was "not an empty shell." In addition, NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce visited the SNS facility in June of 2016, months before Trump's inauguration, and painted a picture that conflicts with the suggestion the stockpile was empty.
"A big American flag hangs from the ceiling, and shelves packed with stuff stand so tall that looking up makes me dizzy."In her piece, Greenfieldboyce also quoted Rocco Casagrande, the managing director of Gryphon Scientific, who conducted an analysis of how prepared the stockpile was at the time for various threats. Although Casagrande said he could not publicly discuss the analysis results, he claimed that the inventory had an "adequate amount of materials."
Regardless, some reports support the suggestion that the stockpile was not adequately stocked. For example, Greg Burel, who was the director of the SNS until January, told CBS News that they did not receive funds to replace the protective gear, anti-virals, and masks used for H1N1.
Speaking to Vice News, Burel claimed that the allegedly limited funding for the stockpile was instead funneled into flu medications, vaccines, and other pharmaceutical drugs.