(CN) – American cities report a nationwide shortage of 28.5 million face masks, 7.9 million test kits, and 139,000 ventilators needed to protect first responders and care for citizens suffering from the novel coronavirus, according to a survey published by the United States Conference of Mayors on Friday.
“These times are unprecedented and in responding to these needs, our lives have been turned upside down. That said, there is a uniformity across the country, we all have direct and immediate needs,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts, one of the municipalities that participated in the survey.
As of March 27, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 85,356 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 1,246 deaths.
The survey asked mayors around the country to assess their supplies of personal protective equipment and test kits needed to address the spread of the virus. Leaders from 213 cities in 41 states and Puerto Rico participated in the study, with populations ranging from 2,000 to 3.8 million people, and totaling 45 million people.
“With the virus expanding rapidly in cities across the country, protecting public health and public safety are the most immediate and the highest priorities driving the Conference of Mayors’ request for direct federal assistance,” explained the organization’s executive director Tom Cochran in the report.
In addition to requesting $250 billion in federal aid as a collective, individual cities are appealing to the CDC for supplies. According to the report, Montgomery, Alabama, received 5,880 masks as a Strategic National Stockpile delivery, which all had dry rot.
“It is abundantly clear that the shortage of essential items such as face masks, test kits, personal protective equipment, ventilators and other items needed by health and safety personnel has reached crisis proportions in cities across the country,” Cochran continued.
While 88% of cities surveyed reported lacking personal protection equipment like gloves and gowns needed to keep first responders like police officers, firefighters, and hospital workers safe, this leaves dozens of other sectors that come into contact with the public unprotected including city public transit employees, garbage collectors, and elections staff.
On top of the shortage of N95 surgical masks, cities added gloves, shoe covers, antibacterial soap, bleach, and medical refuse bags to their urgent needs lists.
Nine out of 10 cities reported having inadequate numbers of coronavirus test kits, while 85% of respondents anticipate they lack the number of ventilators needed to provide care to individuals suffering from the worst effects of the disease.
Dayton, Ohio, alone reported needing 200,000 masks, 150,000 eye protectors, and 1,000 gallons of bleach to meet anticipated demand.
It’s no wonder that Tennessee doctor Sonal Gupta advised viewers in a video news conference on Thursday to use swimming goggles and diapers to protect themselves if nothing else was available – advice that may seem less absurd by the day.
“Cities and towns are facing catastrophe. We need help to provide our core services,” said Curtatone in Somerville. With its proximity to Boston, Somerville is hosting remote testing centers and preparing hospital beds. Although the suburb implemented social distancing measures on March 11, it currently has 26 confirmed cases of the disease. The capital city’s count nears 500.
“There is no playbook for this,” Curtatone said. “Every state needs to be part of the solution.”