The government of Barbados is charging that shipment of 20 ventilators it had ordered and already paid for were seized by US authorities and prevented from reaching Barbados. Minister of Health and Wellness Jeffrey Bostic told reporters at a press conference “They were seized in the United States. Paid for, but seized, so we are trying to see exactly what is going to transpire there.”
Here’s a very damning but also unsurprising report from the AP. The gist is that the federal government didn’t start placing orders for n95 masks and other PPE until mid-March, just as the country was heading into the COVID-19 maelstrom. To orient ourselves in time this was well after the initial outbreak in Washington state and roughly the period when New York City began to move toward lockdown.
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Let’s talk about these seizures of PPE goods by federal authorities. There are a number of instances of this and as I noted in the post below a number of reasons why it might be happening. There are numerous cases where orders placed by states or hospitals have been canceled after they have been outbid by federal authorities or federal authorities have ordered vendors to sell to the federal government. According to Kaiser Health News, those compelled sales appear to be pursuant to an executive order President Trump signed on March 18th under authorities granted by the Defense Production Act.
But what I’m more interested in are reports of federal authorities confiscating physical shipments en route to states, local governments or regional hospital systems. The most publicized case of this came at some point in March when, according to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a shipment of 3 million masks ordered through BJ’s Wholesale was seized by federal authorities in the Port of New York. Baker did not say which agency confiscated the goods or under what authority. That incident was what led to the widely reported and successful effort to fly goods in from China using the New England Patriots jet.
Here’s something I’m looking for more information about. If you see published reports or know directly about instances, please email us. There have now been a number of reports of states or large institutional buyers purchasing PPE from abroad (mainly China) and then having the shipments confiscated by customs officials at US ports or airports. Again, not large Amazon orders, big, big governmental or institutional shipments.
We’ve been hearing from many of you asking about TPM’s finances amidst this crisis and what’s happening with us as a company. Each time another publication shutters or announces layoffs, which has happened almost daily for the last two weeks, we hear it more. So here’s an update on our status. I will try to answer the question holistically because there are a lot of moving parts.
Here’s a wild story out of Germany, or maybe Bangkok. There’s enough uncertainty here that I wouldn’t take this story as necessarily accurate but rather as accusations that themselves capture the breakdown of trust and uncertainty gripping the world today.
Let me run through a number of small updates and links on the crisis.
*** We’ve discussed the IHME model out of Washington state which appears to be becoming the canonical model for governments and hospital systems for predicting the course of the epidemic. They are updating it most days by plugging in the latest new data and seeing how the model changes. From March 31st to April 1st the estimate for overall mortality nationwide rose 11,624 to a total of 93,765. Yesterday the number ticked down by a couple hundred. Today they say their next update will be tomorrow. We shouldn’t make too much of the absolute number. They are actually broad ranges of predicted possibilities. The point is that currently lack a lot of the data the models require to approach something like accuracy. As more nuggets of data – what actually happened – comes in the predicted outcomes can change rapidly.
In Governor Cuomo’s press conference today he mentioned that the new facilities at the Javits Center (the big mega expo and conference center in midtown) is being transitioned to being another COVID hospital. Originally it was going to be a non-COVID facility to take stress off the hospitals. The Navy has also loosened the restrictions that had kept almost all patients off the USNS Comfort. What was most striking though is that Cuomo said that there just aren’t many non-COVID patients in the city. The plan was that these new facilities would take other acute needs off the existing hospital system’s hands. But there aren’t that many.
Let me share with you three notes from TPM Reader SK. The exchange starts in response to TPM Reader BW and my post from last night. Some of the points SK makes about BW I don’t necessarily agree with, or at least points of emphasis. But I’m sharing these emails because SK is in the distributor business (though not for medical supplies) and has a wealth of knowledge about the nitty gritty of how these distribution channels work. That’s critical background to understanding any of this.
One point that is incredibly important to understand is the distinction between two very different kinds of players involved in these transactions.
The resistance some states have shown to implementing aggressive coronavirus responses has led public health experts to call for President Trump to issue nationwide stay-at-home guidance.
Anti-government extremist Ammon Bundy led a meeting last week where he agitated for Idahoans to physically defy the state’s stay-at-home order, which is meant to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staying mentally grounded has become increasingly difficult as COVID-19 continues to dominate the news cycle and our lives. Finding things to help distract ourselves and to get out of our heads for a little bit are a must, whether it’s a new hobby or skill, talking to family and friends, TV shows, movies or a good book. While we at TPM join much of the world in practicing social distancing, we asked our staff to share what books they’re reading while they cope with isolation.