Enlarge /. President Donald Trump speaks as Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the White House, listens during a press conference of the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House on Thursday, April 2, 2020.
Getty Images | Bloomberg
The Trump administration yesterday changed the description of the program on the Strategic National Stockpile website after White House adviser Jared Kushner incorrectly claimed that medical supply inventory was not intended to help states. The description has been changed to minimize the role of inventory in assisting states in crises such as the current pandemic. However, other parts of the official website continue to make it clear that Kushner was wrong.
After Jared Kushner's comment that the Strategic National Stockpile is not for states, many people pointed out that it says on its own website.
The language on the website has now been changed.
My screenshot from last night against one from today: pic.twitter.com/UwJFAr7uoV
– Daniel Dale (@ ddale8), April 3, 2020
President Trump's son-in-law, Kushner, said in a press conference Thursday that "the term federal supply should be our supply, not the state supplies they use." Kushner made the remark as he talked about ventilators and masks. (See transcript.)
Kushner admitted that the federal government provided fans and other equipment to the states, although he argued that the supply was not for use by states. However, the Strategic National Stockpile website, which is maintained by the United States Department of Health (HHS), previously made it clear that inventory was for the entire country. Before Kushner's comments, the page said:
Strategic National Stockpile is the nation's largest offering of life-saving medicines and medical aids for public health emergencies that are so severe that local supplies are running out.
When government, local, tribal, and territorial forces seek federal support to support their response efforts, supplies ensure that the right medicines and supplies reach those who need them most in an emergency.
All of the text you can see today in an Internet archive snapshot of today's page was deleted today after Kushner was criticized for making a false claim. The new version of the page contains a vague description, emphasizing that states have their own stocks:
The Strategic National Stockpile's mission is to complement state and local public health emergencies. Many states also have products in stock. The supplies, medicines and devices for life-saving care contained in the supply can be used as a short-term emergency buffer if the immediate supply with sufficient quantities of these materials may not be immediately available.
Inventories are used to "replenish government … agencies"
If the goal was to completely remove all traces of the role of inventory in state support, the efforts were not thorough enough. A link "About the supply" on the homepage still leads to a more detailed description, which says that "state and local health authorities should be restored in the event of a catastrophic health event".
When Ars contacted them, HHS announced that the change to the website was in progress for a week, although it was only made available today.
"We have been using this language for weeks to answer inquiries," an HHS spokesman told Ars. "ASPR (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Readiness and Response) started updating the website text a week ago to meet the clarify the role of the SNS (Strategic National Stockpile) to state and local authorities and members of the public. "
According to Politico, "a White House spokesman had no comment when asked if the White House had ordered the inventory website change."
Kushner: States demand too much
At yesterday's press conference, Kushner said the federal government is using "a simple formula" based on the utilization percentage data provided by states to determine where to send ventilators.
Kushner said that "many people across the country are asking about things they don't really need at the moment," and he urged reporters to be skeptical of states' claims that the federal government didn't provide enough fans and others medical supplies:
I just want to encourage you if you have governors who say the federal government hasn't given them what they need, and I urge you to ask them, "Well, have you checked in your state to make sure that you weren't. " able to find the resources. "
Originally known as the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, the pool was created in 1999 to "assemble large quantities of essential medical supplies that can be delivered to states and communities in an emergency within 12 hours of the federal government's decision to use the pool," another federal website says.
This website lists numerous cases where inventory has been used to respond to natural disasters and public health emergencies over the past 20 years. The page has already been updated for the current pandemic, stating that as of March 31, "more than 10,308 tons of freight (have been shipped) to address the U.S. return efforts and the need for government-sponsored personal protective equipment (PSA) related to COVID-19 support ".
Trump said at yesterday's press conference that the national supply has nearly 10,000 fans. "The states should have built up their inventories," said Trump, calling the federal supply "a backup". The federal government has already distributed half of its ventilators, the Wall Street Journal wrote.
The stock "has been overwhelmed by urgent requests for masks, respirators, goggles, gloves, and clothes" in the two months since the first US case of COVID-19, "a Washington Post article said last week. The Post article said the stock was "never for an emergency spanning the entire nation." This does not mean that it should not be used by states, but that it is well stocked for several regional emergencies.
"The answer contains enough for several emergencies," said former CDC director Richard Besser. "Multiple does not mean 50 states plus territories and every location in every state."