Originally published September 24 2014
US State Dept. orders 160,000 Ebola hazmat suits
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) A U.S. manufacturer has just announced that the federal government is ordering 160,000 hazardous materials (hazmat) suits, in response to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but it's not clear just why exactly so many of the suits are being ordered.
According to a press release from Lakeland Industries, Inc., of Ronkonkoma, New York, the company is a "leading global manufacturer of industrial protective clothing" for cities, industry, healthcare workers and first responders on all levels -- federal, state and local.
The company says the government's order is specifically for "protective apparel for use in handling the Ebola virus." Also, the company said that it would be "increasing its manufacturing capacity for these garments" due to the demand for Ebola-related protective gear.
'Suits are in short supply'
"Lakeland stands ready to join the fight against the spread of Ebola," said Christopher J. Ryan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lakeland Industries. "We understand the difficulty of getting appropriate products through a procurement system that in times of crisis favors availability over specification, and we hope our added capacity will help alleviate that problem. With the U.S. State Department alone putting out a bid for 160,000 suits, we encourage all protective apparel companies to increase their manufacturing capacity for sealed seam garments so that our industry can do its part in addressing this threat to global health."
Continuing, Ryan added, "With our diverse global operations and the breadth of our protective apparel line incorporating superior sealed seam technology, we are ideally situated to assist organizations worldwide as they handle Ebola. Despite reports citing the short supply of protective suits for handling hazardous materials, we believe it is very important to alert those in need around the world that Lakeland has appropriately qualified and certified suits, ample manufacturing capacity, and numerous distribution points to supply these garments."
Okay, but 160,000? Isn't that excessive? Or is the government just being pragmatic?
What about political patronage -- is this a "preferred company" that stands to make quite a bundle, compliments of the U.S. taxpayer?
Is it wrong to be so cynical?
Granted, the Ebola virus is spreading exponentially across West Africa. More than 2,500 have died from the disease, and world leaders are warning that the epidemic -- already the worst since the disease was identified in 1976 -- is bound to spread.
And it's true that the healthcare systems of the most-affected countries -- Liberia (the hardest hit), Sierra Leone and Guinea -- have collapsed or are near collapse. It is also true that these countries are heavily in debt, leaving them unable to fend for themselves.
In recent days, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released plans to establish an Ebola crisis center, with a mission to stop the spread of the virus in six to nine months. That will take resources, of course; Ban said he was counting on public and private funding from around the world to raise what he believes will be needed to accomplish his mission -- $600 million.
"The number of cases is rising exponentially. The disease is spreading far faster than the response. People are increasingly frustrated that it is not being controlled," he said in a statement.
Time will tell if the government is just being pragmatic or lying to us
In response, companies like Lakeland have provided hazmat suits, some of which are being worn by volunteers with the charitable organization Doctors Without Borders. Indeed, the company's "global team" has been working with officials from the charity "to ensure that the technical data and performance specifications for Lakeland's garments exceeded the necessary protective requirements," said the company's press release.
"These suits are essential to saving lives," said Richard Parker, vice president of PCI Global, a non-profit group, in a report by a local NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. "There's a very short supply around the world. We were able to procure these 276 suits through a medical supply company in California, so we bought them up as soon as we could."
Perhaps the 160,000 figure is reasonable; perhaps many more are being ordered than are needed; perhaps the government knows something that the rest of us do not. Time will tell.
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