Shortage of critical PPE supplies persists

Nine months into the pandemic health care workers still find themselves scrambling for PPE, personal protective equipment. The shortages are more and more acute, as cases keep rising in practically every state, as the U.S. gears up to launch a nationwide program of vaccinations, according to a CBS “60 Minutes” report.

With no effective federal coordination early on, desperate governors, mayors, doctors and sheriffs are left fending for themselves and bidding against each other for supplies like masks and gloves. The global hunt for inventory has created a free-for-all market that’s attracted speculators, self-starters, and outright scammers, leading to congressional and criminal investigations.

The PPE market operates with few rules, and is rife with chaos and broken promises. There are videos circulating online warning of boxes arriving with bags of sand instead of product. Other photos show imported gloves arriving damaged. A charity that ordered masks got instead tissue-thin counterfeits they called a doll’s bloomers.

Masks and gloves are hawked in chat groups on texting apps. Fraud is so rampant that buyers have demanded sellers provide a proof of life video, where the goods are shown with the buyer’s name and current date, like in hostage negotiations.

The most dire shortage right now is in gloves, which with the pandemic are worn in restaurants and factories, as well as hospitals. The need is expected to explode once a national vaccination program starts.