US Conference of Mayors survey reveals extent of shortage of COVID-19 emergency equipment

The results find cities in dire need of PPE, test kits, face masks and ventilators


WASHINGTON — On Friday, the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) released a new survey of 213 cities from 41 states and Puerto Rico on the shortage of COVID-19 emergency equipment across the country. Mayors reported on the availability of test kits, masks, and other personal protective equipment in their cities. 

The survey makes clear that the shortage of such essential items has reached crisis proportions and that the safety of city residents, healthcare workers, first responders and other city workers is being seriously compromised.

The survey comes after the Conference sent a letter to Congress signed by 303 mayors seeking federal resources to fight this public health threat, maintain city services and protect families and local businesses from the economic fallout of the crisis.

Senior Airman Serena Nicholas administers a coronavirus test to a first responder. Image: Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune
Senior Airman Serena Nicholas administers a coronavirus test to a first responder. Image: Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune

Our first responders and health care workers are on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak, and mayors are doing all we can to provide them with the resources to stay safe and to keep our residents healthy,” said USCM President Bryan K. Barnett, Mayor of Rochester Hills (MI). “While cities are doing everything they can, we need support from our state and federal leaders. This survey confirms what mayors already know to be true: we need adequate resources to end this pandemic.”

Populations of the cities cited in the survey range from under 2,000 to 3.8 million. Six of the cities have populations over one million; 45 have populations below 50,000. The cities surveyed are home to 42 million people. The full results of the survey, along with a report offering detail from various cities, can be here found here.

Topline findings of the survey include:

  • 91.5% (192) of the cities do not have an adequate supply of face masks for their first responders (including police, fire, and EMTs) and medical personnel. 
  • 88.2% (186) do not have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) other than face masks to protect these workers.
  • 92.1% (186) do not have an adequate supply of test kits.
  • 85% (164) do not have an adequate supply of ventilators for use by health facilities in their city or area.
  • 62.4% (131) have not received emergency equipment or supplies from their State.  
  • Of those receiving help from their State, 84.6% (66) say it is not adequate to meet their needs.

“The ability of a city to protect its residents from COVID-19 depends on first responders and health care personnel, our first line of defense, staying healthy as they save lives,” said Tom Cochran, USCM CEO and Executive Director.

“This survey shows that despite their best efforts, cities do not have and cannot obtain the equipment and supplies essential to protect first responders, health care workers and residents from COVID-19. Cities need much greater support if we are to overcome this pandemic and restore our communities.”

ABOUT THE U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are nearly 1,400 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

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