The US has more masks in the national stockpile than the 30 million Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar described yesterday, he told members of the House Appropriations Committee today.
Azar gave the 30 million number when talking to the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday.
Today he clarified it like this:
"We have 30 million surgical masks. Those would be the gauze tied behind the ear-type masks meant to really protect people from the healthcare workers spreading. We have 12 million N95 NIOSH-certified masks in the stockpile and we have about 5 million N95 masks that I believe may have expired, they're no longer NIOSH-certified.”
Azar did not go into detail about what an expired mask means, or whether it can still be used. NIOSH refers to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Azar explained that N95 masks are “mostly for health care workers.”
When asked if the public should access N95 masks, Azar said, "No no, we do not recommend that. We do not recommend that, no,” adding the best defense is basic public health hygiene — washing hands for an extended period of time, not touching your face and coughing into your elbow.
Still, he said the stockpile is not enough. “What we have talked about is approximately 300 million additional N95 masks from the emergency supplemental," Azar said.