As Covid infections surge across China, the U.S. again risks falling short of medical supplies as that country struggles to keep factories running and goods flowing out of its ports.
U.S. hospitals, health care companies and federal officials worked to lessen their dependence on China for medical goods after the first wave of Covid infections in 2020 laid bare the major role China plays in manufacturing such crucial items as masks, latex gloves and surgical gowns, along with the key drugs and components in many medical devices.
U.S. officials and medical suppliers said in interviews that they were closely monitoring the situation in China and had yet to see any shortages directly linked to the latest wave of infections there.
But health care executives and supply chain analysts warn the impact of China's latest Covid wave could take months to work its way through the supply chain and much will depend on the trajectory of the pandemic in the coming weeks, something officials in the U.S. have limited insight into given the lack of data from China.
Health care officials say they hope that the U.S. is in a better place to withstand any shocks from China. After hospitals saw shortages of gloves, gowns and masks in the early days of the pandemic, many moved to keep larger stockpiles on hand. Hospitals have also increasingly looked to diversify which countries their essential supplies come from.
“We’ve seen a lot of success up and down the supply chain with ensuring that inventories are where they need to be,” said Kyle MacKinnon, senior director of operational excellence at Premier, which helps health care providers manage their supply chains. “It feels like there’s room to absorb some potential impacts of this. Now down to what degree is kind of harder to put your thumb on due to the potentially very large-scale level of Covid cases.”