Topic: U.S. Medical Supply Chains Failed, and COVID Deaths Followed
Nurse Sandra Oldfield’s patient didn’t have the usual symptoms of COVID-19 — yet. But then he tested positive for the virus, and it was clear that Oldfield — a veteran, 53-year-old caregiver — had been exposed.
She was sent home by Kaiser Permanente officials with instructions to keep careful notes on her condition. And she did.
“Temperature 97.1,” she wrote on March 26, her first log entry. Normal.
She and her colleagues said they had felt unsafe at work and had raised concerns with their managers. They needed N95 masks, powerful protection against contracting COVID-19. Kaiser Permanente had none for Sandra Oldfield. Instead, she was issued a less effective surgical mask, leaving her vulnerable to the deadly virus.
Many others were similarly vulnerable, and not just at this 169-bed hospital in Fresno, California. From the very moment the pandemic reached America’s shores, the country was unprepared. Hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities didn’t have the masks and equipment needed to protect their workers. Some got sick and spread the virus. Some died.
The Associated Press and FRONTLINE launched a 7-month investigation — filing Freedom of Information Act requests, testing medical masks, interviewing dozens of experts from hard-hit hospitals to the White House — to understand what was behind these critical shortages.
Medical supply chains that span oceans and continents are the fragile lifelines between raw materials and manufacturers overseas, and health care workers on COVID-19 front lines in the U.S. As link after link broke, the system fell apart.
This catastrophic collapse was one of the country’s most consequential failures to control the virus. And it wasn’t unexpected: For decades, politicians and corporate officials ignored warnings about the risks associated with America’s overdependence on foreign manufacturing, and a lack of adequate preparation at home, the AP and FRONTLINE found.