The federal government is reportedly quietly seizing medical supplies from hospitals across the country
Hospitals in seven states say the federal government has been quietly seizing medical supply orders amid the coronavirus crisis, a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed April 7. Officials and staff at the hospitals told the newspaper they never received guidance on why the materials were taken, where they went, or when they can expect replacement orders. Government acquisitions have ranged from thermometers and testing kits to face masks, according to the LA Times. A FEMA representative told the newspaper that "high-transmission areas were prioritized, and allocations were based on population, not on quantities requested." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Hospital officials are claiming the federal government are quietly seizing medical supply orders amid the coronavirus crisis, an investigation from the Los Angeles Times revealed April 7. Staff from hospitals in seven states told the LA Times that they haven't received guidance on why the materials are being taken, where they are going, or when they can expect replacement orders, according to the report. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had not publicly addressed why medical supply orders are being acquired by the federal government, but a representative told the newspaper that "high-transmission areas were prioritized, and allocations were based on population, not on quantities requested." The FEMA representative said the agency has developed a system to distribute supplies equitably, echoing the Trump administration's assertion that the federal government is taking a "data-driven" approach to medical supply dispersal. President Donald Trump also enacted the Defense Production Act — a law that allows the president to call for ramped up production of certain materials during a national crisis — to boost production of ventilators in the country. Despite ramped up production, hospitals across the country still lack the medical materials they need Nonetheless, an order for thermometers was taken away from a large medical system in Florida, the LA Times reported, and the state has at least 15,700 cases and 323 deaths. A hospital system in Massachusetts told the LA Times they never received its order of masks as the state battles 16,790 cases and the death toll in the state surpasses 400. "In order to have confidence in the distribution system, to know that it is being done in an equitable manner, you have to have transparency," Dr. John Hick, an emergency physician who helped develop national emergency preparedness standards, told the LA Times. PeaceHealth, a 10-hospital system in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington state — where the first US coronavirus case was detected — had a shipment of testing materials seized. "It's incredibly frustrating," PeaceHealth COO Richard DeCarlo told the LA Times. "We had put wheels in motion with testing and protective equipment to allow us to secure and protect our staff and our patients." "When testing went off the table, we had to come up with a whole new plan." Jose Camacho, head of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, told the newspaper that an order of 20,000 masks was seized as primary care clinics are struggling to remain open due to PPE shortages. "Everyone says you are supposed to be on your own, then to have this happen, you just sit there wondering what else you can do," Camacho told the LA Times. "You can't fight the federal government."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 9 items to avoid buying at Costco
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An explosive new documentary details how Jared Kushner's coronavirus task force consisted mainly of 20-something volunteers buying PPE with personal email accounts
Summary List Placement When Max Kennedy Jr. volunteered to help out on Jared Kushner's White House...Summary List Placement When Max Kennedy Jr. volunteered to help out on Jared Kushner's White House COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force, he thought he'd be helping out senior staff with rote tasks like data entry. "My old boss called me and said he heard Kushner's task force needed younger volunteers who had general skills and were willing to work seven days a week for no money," Kennedy, now 27, said in the forthcoming documentary about the Trump team's coronavirus response, "Totally Under Control." The film, which was made in secret over the past five months, is slated for on-demand release on October 13. Despite his "apprehension" about working for the Trump administration, Kennedy volunteered because he felt like it was the right thing to do, he said. So Kennedy traveled to Washington, DC, and showed up at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Once there, he said volunteers were led to Conference Room A, a windowless underground meeting space. TVs covered the walls, all blaring Fox News. After they sat down, Kennedy said representatives from FEMA and the military came in and gave them a "pep talk." The officials told volunteers they needed to procure "the stuff" for the US government — Kennedy said they were referring to personal protective equipment, or PPE. Then the officials left, leaving Kennedy and the other volunteers. Slowly, they realized what was happening. "We thought we'd be auxiliary support for an existing procurement team," Kennedy, who is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, said in the film. "Instead, we were the team." Kennedy said he and a dozen inexperienced volunteers had become a core component of the US government's efforts to procure PPE. A severe shortage of PPE across the US Kushner formed the COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force in March to address what had become a pressing issue: the US's severe shortage of PPE and other medical equipment. Already, hospitals in many regions were running out of masks and ventilators, and workers were making single-use masks last over several days. One surgeon in Fresno, California, told The New York Times it was like being "at war with no ammo." There were multiple reasons for these shortages, including a lack of preparations by previous administrations — many of the Strategic National Stockpile's 12 million N95 masks were expired, for instance. But in February, the Trump administration created the "CS China COVID Procurement Service," which existed partly to encourage American producers like 3M to sell their entire inventories of N95 masks to China. One month later, when American hospitals desperately needed N95 masks, they were forced to import them and pay up to 10 times more than the price that American producers would have charged, according to the documentary. Using personal email accounts to buy critical supplies For the rest of March and well into April, Kennedy sat in Conference Room A with the other volunteers, whom he said had no experience in supply chains or medical issues. With very little direction, the team members opened up their personal laptops and got to work, Kennedy said. "We started cold emailing people we knew who had business relationships in China, looking for factories online, and emailing them from our personal Gmail accounts," Kennedy said in the film. The group was also told to prioritize leads from "VIPs," which mostly consisted of well-connected and wealthy Trump supporters, BuzzFeed News and The New York Times previously reported. The task force kept track of such leads in a spreadsheet called "VIP Updates." One "VIP," the Silicon Valley engineer Yaron Oren-Pines, received a $69 million contract to provide 1,000 ventilators to New York state after he tweeted at the president, Business Insider previously reported. Oren-Pines never delivered, and the state has tried to get its money back. As the team worked, the TVs kept playing Fox News 24/7, Kennedy said, adding that he remembered the channel's coronavirus-death counter ticking steadily upward. Kennedy said nobody told the other volunteers how to buy PPE Buying PPE without any experience or advice turned out to be difficult, largely because Kennedy said he and the other volunteers had no idea how procurement worked, and nobody would tell them. "We would call factories and say, 'We think the federal government can send you a check in 60 days,' and they would say, 'There's someone with a briefcase of cash, and they're offering to pay me right now,'" he said in the film. "And we would run around the FEMA building looking for someone who could tell us what payment terms the government was allowed to offer, and no one ever told us." A week into their work, Kennedy said several government employees walked into Conference Room A and told the volunteers they had to sign nondisclosure agreements. They offered an ultimatum: Sign the NDAs, or leave the room immediately, according to Kennedy. "We all had built our own relationships with manufacturers, and it felt like if we walked away, it would negatively affect our ability to buy this critical, life-saving equipment. And so we all begrudgingly signed the NDA," he said in the film. Kennedy quit the task force in April. That month, he also broke his NDA, sending an anonymous complaint to Congress that said the task force was "falling short." "In my time on the task force, our team did not directly purchase a single mask," he said in the film. Kushner's program was mostly shut down in May, even though state governments and healthcare facilities were still experiencing critical shortages of PPE and ventilators. The White House didn't immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment on the film or Kennedy's characterization of the task force.SEE ALSO: Jared Kushner's shadow coronavirus task force used a spreadsheet called 'VIP Update' to procure PPE from inexperienced Trump allies over legitimate vendors DON'T MISS: A volunteer on Kushner's coronavirus team filed a complaint to Congress warning the group was 'falling short' on helping health care workers Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: The global coronavirus death toll has officially reached 1 million — although experts believe the actual death toll is much higher
Colorado kept a large shipment of COVID-19 tests 'under wraps' so the federal government wouldn't take them, governor says
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Friday in an interview with Colorado Public Radio that his state...Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Friday in an interview with Colorado Public Radio that his state kept a shipment of more than 100,000 COVID-19 tests from South Korea "under wraps" over concerns the federal government might interfere. "We were worried that the federal government or somebody else would take them," he said in the interview. During a press conference Friday, he reiterated his concerns, saying that the current situation, with regard to coronavirus tests, masks, etc., is a "global free-for-all." His comments follow a revelation by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan that the state National Guard and police met a plane from South Korea carrying 500,000 tests at the airport and are currently guarding them at a secret location to avoid seizure. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Colorado recently purchased COVID-19 tests from South Korea, but the shipment was kept "under wraps" due to concerns that the federal government might take them, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Friday on Colorado Public Radio. Polis told CPR that the state kept efforts to secure the tests quiet because "we were worried that the federal government or somebody else would take them." The state used emergency funds to pay in cash upon delivery. "We kept it under wraps," he said. "We simply didn't know if anybody would swoop in." The challenge with the federal government, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in particular, Polis said, "is they often go to the front of the line in acquisitions. This is what happened to us with regard to ventilator acquisition." The governor previously accused the federal government of swooping in on a ventilator order. Other states have made similar accusations. FEMA has rejected accusations that it is seizing supplies. Polis said things were kept pretty quiet because "we don't want to give the competition, which could mean other countries, could mean our own country, could mean other states, we don't want to give them a heads up on what we're doing." Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner announced in late April that the state had negotiated a deal for over 100,000 COVID-19 tests from South Korea that would "soon be delivered," but details were limited. Polis, who briefly acknowledged the order in a press conference after the senator's announcement, revealed to CPR that the imported tests are now in the state. "We don't tell anybody until they are here on the ground in Colorado," Polis said at a Friday press conference. "We have no reason to believe the feds would take any kind of seizure action once they're here. We are just worried about them cutting them off at the manufacturer during the supply chain or during customs." A spokesman for the governor's office told Insider that there were actually some logjams getting the tests through customs. Polis described the current situation as a "global free-for-all." Polis acknowledged that he continues to see the federal government as a partner, and a spokesman for his office told Insider: "These are unprecedented times, and we are working with anyone and everyone who can help Colorado — private sector, federal government — to increase our testing ability." The governor's comments follow Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's revelation Thursday that Maryland National Guard troops and state police were called in to protect a shipment of 500,000 tests from South Korea from seizure. Hogan told The Washington Post a Korean Air flight carrying the tests recently landed in Baltimore "with a large contingent of Maryland National Guard and Maryland state police because this was an enormously valuable payload. "It was like Fort Knox to us because it's going to save the lives of thousands of our citizens." The governor said the tests were "so important to us that we wanted to make sure that plane took off from Korea safely, landed here in America safely, and that we guarded that cargo from whoever might interfere with us getting that to our folks that needed it." Hogan added that the protection mission is ongoing, saying that "the National Guard and state police are both guarding these tests at an undisclosed location." He explained that such actions were deemed necessary after reports surfaced of states having masks and other supplies seized or intercepted by the federal government.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why electric planes haven't taken off yet