Senator Dianne Feinstein wants the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms to look into the number of N-95 and cloth masks senators have in office emergency packs and donate what they can.
“As you know, every Senate office has been issued an emergency pack by the Senate Sergeant at Arms (SAA) that includes, among other things, N-95 masks and cloth procedure masks,” the California Democrat said in her letter. “The SAA has now issued guidance that each Senator is free to use the equipment in these emergency kits as we see fit.”
Emergency supply kits provided to each office have 10 N-95 masks, a Democratic Senate aide said. The kits, provided to lawmaker offices in Washington and their districts, as well as committee offices, are mostly designed for building emergencies like fires.
The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms did not respond to a request for comment.
Feinstein sent the letter, addressed to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.
The United States has reported more than 400,000 cases and more than 13,800 deaths from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“The hope is that this spurs other federal agencies and more private sector businesses to do the same,” the aide said.
Feinstein’s DC office is donating about 25 masks, some of which are N-95s. It will donate another roughly 50 from state offices, the aide said.
Depleted medical supply rooms across the country are running short as healthcare workers fight to treat patients.
The administration has started distributing money from a new $100 billion hospital emergency fund to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but questions remain whether the hardest-hit hospitals are being prioritized in the first wave of money, and parameters on who qualifies are still unclear.
Feinstein vowed her office would donate all the masks and other needed equipment to hospitals and other organizations, and she encouraged her colleagues to do the same.
“While this will be a small part of the Nation’s need for emergency equipment,” Feinstein wrote. “We can at least put the Congressional stocks of masks and other equipment to good use during this pandemic.”
Calls made to establish the broader context and extent of congressional supplies to the House Sergeant-at-Arms, House Chief Administrative Officer and the Office of the Attending Physician were not returned.