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S.C. lawmakers, agencies see need for $16M stockpile of safety gear

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Photo: Pixabay(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 11, 2020 at 7:07 AM EDT
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Thursday, June 11, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, state agencies said they were searching high and low for personal protective equipment for South Carolina.

According to officials, they encountered a lot of counterfeit equipment and equipment that wasn't up to standards.

On Wednesday morning, officials with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, South Carolina Department of Health Environmental Control and state Department of Administration testified before a panel of lawmakers. They talked about the challenges they faced while working to secure PPE.

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They said the majority of the PPE in the state was commercially purchased or donated. But they did receive some from the Strategic National Stockpile.

According to officials, the state has received:

• More than 150,000 N-95 masks.

• About 430,000 surgical masks.

• More than 72,000 pieces of eye/face protection equipment.

• 337,000 gloves.

• About 60,000 gowns.

DHEC officials said the Strategic National Stockpile allocation did not meet the state’s demand.

“Many of the items in the Strategic National Stockpile had either expirations attached to them or they had degraded materials,” Nick Davidson, COVID-19 Response Incident Commander, said. “It means we weren’t able to use it to the maximum extent possible.”

That's why some lawmakers said they are exploring the idea of creating a state stockpile. It's one of the many things they are considering while working on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve never been through something like this before,” said Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington. “This is a new journey for everybody so we don’t know what you’re going to need. This could happen again in the fall so we need to be prepared.”

Chief of Staff for SCEMD, Steve Batson, said a four-week stockpile of PPE would cost the state about $16 million.

Batson said the stockpile would be made up of:

• More than 420,000 N-95 masks.

• Close to 2 million surgical masks.

• About 82,000 pieces of eye and face protection equipment.

• More than 64 million gloves.

• About 900,000 gowns.

“The pallet size would be about 1,257 pallets to store that much PPE,” he said. “We have enough room in our warehouse in Fairfield County to manage that amount of stock. We would have changes if we had to order our typical hurricane supplies like MREs and bottled water.”

Right now, Batson said the state has ample PPE but a big order or demand could wipe out the current supply. He said the private sector has a steady flow and supply of PPE at the moment. They are connecting some of their larger partners with those vendors directly.

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