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It’s no secret that protective gear for medical professionals has been in short supply and high demand over the past couple of months. You’ve probably seen article after article about different states and hospitals cutting it super close when it comes to PPE.
One of the most highly sought after items has been N95 masks.
These masks offer enhanced protections from basic surgical masks in that they protect the person wearing the mask from inhaling harmful particles (versus just preventing the person wearing the mask from spreading harmful particles to others).
Because of that function, they are extremely vital for many healthcare professionals who are forced to come in to close contact with infected individuals.
Well, news just broke that TSA may have been hoarding over 1.3 million of these masks.
Airport traffic has dropped approximately 95% in the last couple of months and so there are far fewer airport security workers needed in airports across the country.
Last month, some TSA officials raised concerns about this huge stockpile of respirator masks. Charles Kielkopf, a TSA attorney in Columbus, Ohio, stated, “We don’t need them. People who are in an infectious environment need them. Nobody is flying […] You don’t take things for yourself. It’s the wrong thing to do,”
Kielkopf filed a whistleblower complaint and alleged the TSA had engaged in gross mismanagement that represented a “substantial and specific danger to public health.”
Most TSA workers have been wearing the more basic surgical masks and not N95 masks. TSA actually received more than a million N95 masks from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Kielkopf and others suggested that the TSA should donate the N95s to hospitals last month but it looks like TSA stored many of its masks in its warehouse near DFW and sent the rest to empty airports.
TSA did release a statement stating, “With the support of CBP and DHS, in April, TSA was able to ensure a sufficient supply of N95 masks would be available for any officer who chose to wear one and completed the requisite training.”
So it sounds like they took efforts to ensure that all of their employees who wanted an N95 mask could get one.
But it looks like they did not account for the lack of demand from TSA employees. Reportedly, an internal TSA memo stated that the extra N95 masks were expected to last a month but it did not account for not account for the drastic decline in security officers working at airports.
But instead of shipping out the stockpile based on those trends, they decided to hold onto it.
Over 500 TSA employees have tested positive for coronavirus and a few have died so they have had their struggles with the outbreak. But when it comes to stockpiling over 1 million highly sought after N95 masks, that’s not a good look for TSA.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.