Tuesday, September 16, 2014

State Department Orders 5,000 Body Bags For Ebola Outbreak

The U.S. Agency for International Development ordered 5,000 body bags from a Florida company last month as part of its planned response to an outbreak of the Ebola virus in western Africa.
And as President Obama prepares to enlarge America’s aid to affected countries, a company that makes protective clothing says the State Department, which oversees USAID, has invited bids for 160,000 hazmat suits.
The body-bag purchase came on August 19, just after the World Health Organization said the epidemic had killed 1,000 people. That death toll is now greater than 2,400.
The size of the contracts indicates how seriously governments are taking the threat, especially considering that all 5,000 body bags were destined only for Liberia – one of three countries whose citizens have been hammered with new disease cases and paralyzed with fear.
And the purchase says nothing about what resources might be coming as part of other nations’ contributions.
Barack Obama will travel to Atlanta on Tuesday for a briefing with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His chief spokesman said Monday that the president will announce new levels of support from the U.S. to fight the disease.
The CDC has begun to warn health care workers and hospital administrators to be on the lookout for potential Ebola cases. ‘Now is the time to prepare,’ reads part of a six-page ‘checklist’ being distributed nationwide.
The agency has already deployed about 100 of its own workers to Africa, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters during his daily briefing.
‘This is, if not the largest, among the largest deployments of CDC personnel – ever,’ he said.
America, Earnest added, ‘has a unique responsibility to step up in the midst of an international crisis. … Our doctors and scientists are some of the best in the world.’
The federal government as a whole has allocated $100 million in financing and other resources to assist what has become a continent-wide race against the clock to stamp out a crafty pathogen before it can spread beyond hope of containment.
That level of support, about one-sixth of what the WHO estimates is needed, ‘underscores just how extraordinarily serious the administration believes this issue is,’ said Earnest.
Obama’s visit will add a new sense of urgency, and more aid to the countries where the threat is the more dire.
‘I do anticipate that we’ll have some additional announcements to make’ on Tuesday, Earnest said, ‘about additional commitments we’re making.’
USAID’s body-bag purchase was signed August 19, a $32,500 contract with a Florida packaging company, earmarked ‘for the USAID/OFDA response to the Ebola crisis in west Africa.’
OFDA is the agency’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.
Buying the body bags, however, was just the first step. USAID inked another contact on August 27 ‘for the transport of 5,000 body bags from the vendor’s facility to Liberia.’
Flying them there from warehouses in Illinois and California cost another $57,144.
It’s not clear whether the State Department’s purchase of 160,000 hazmat suits is intended to be delivered all at once, or to which countries they will be delivered.
But Lakeland Industries, based in Ronkonkoma, New York, reported on Friday that ‘the U.S. State Department alone’ has solicited bids ‘for 160,000 suits.’
‘We encourage all protective apparel companies to increase their manufacturing capacity for sealed seam garments,’ the company said in a press release, ‘so that our industry can do its part in addressing this threat to global health.’

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