The last overseas flight to expedite shipment of supplies through the Trump administration’s “Project Airbridge” initiative is scheduled to arrive in Ohio on Tuesday, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Around 249 flights will have been completed when Airbridge, an effort launched at a time when the US faced dire supply shortages, ends, according to an agency spokesperson.
Despite a surge in coronavirus cases across the country, Trump administration officials have expressed confidence in the supply of personal protective equipment and ventilators. A senior Department of Health and Humans Services official told CNN earlier this month it is racing to replenish the nation’s stockpile with needed equipment.
Still, administration officials have left the door open for Airbridge to restart if necessary.
In mid-June, administration officials indicated that Airbridge would be phased out by June 30, but stressed it remains an option for future needs for personal protective equipment. FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor told reporters that any decision to restart Airbridge will rely on information from states and the White House coronavirus task force, among others.
Since its inception in late March, millions of supplies, including N95 respirators, surgical masks, and gowns, have arrived in the US on an expedited schedule. But while cited by the administration as a success, the deliveries made up a small share of supply needs and the final destinations of some supplies remain difficult to account for.
In late March, the federal government partnered with six major US distributors to rush equipment overseas to the United States. FEMA covered the cost of flights, averaging between $750,000 to $800,000 each, and six companies – Cardinal Health, Concordance, Owens and Minor, McKesson, Medline, and Henry Schein – distributed the equipment in the US.
Project Airbridge accelerated the shipment of supplies from weeks to days and got supplies straight to the frontline workers, according to Gaynor. Half of the supplies flown in went to designated hotspot areas and the other half went to distributors’ customers, some of whom might also be in those critical areas.
CNN’s Leyla Santiago contributed to this report.