This is very, very strange. As we’ve reported on the seemingly ubiquitous seizures and reroutings of purchases of medical supplies, FEMA has always appeared to be at the heart of it, even though the targeted buyers are seldom given much information about who took their supplies. But now FEMA is denying that it is requisitioning or confiscating supplies anywhere within the United States, except in cases where they suspect criminal activity.
This afternoon today we noted an earlier version of this article in The Bellingham (Washington) Herald, which described yet another case of interdicted supplies. A major hospital group in the Pacific Northwest had testing supplies rerouted, purportedly to the East Coast. The Los Angeles Times first reported on this seizure on Tuesday and said it was carried out by FEMA. In fact, a FEMA spokesperson explained the actions by saying that FEMA “has developed a system for identifying needed supplies from vendors and distributing them equitably.”
But at some point over the course of the day the Herald article was substantially revised on the basis of a new statement received from FEMA in which FEMA denied any role in what happened. “Reports of FEMA commandeering or re-routing such supplies are false,” FEMA said in the statement.
In the portions of the statement quoted in the article FEMA claims it is only preventing medical supplies from being shipped abroad. Portions of the statement seem to have been tacked on to the article of the article. So let me quote this portion in its entirety.
FEMA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are working to prevent domestic brokers, distributors and others from sending critical medical resources overseas, according to the FEMA statement.
“PPE being distributed internally within the United States is not being seized or re-routed by FEMA,” the statement read.
If a hospital suspects that has happened to an order, the FEMA statement suggested it be reported to their state’s governor. Governors who believe it has happened should report it to the FEMA Region.
“If a company decides to cancel on a state contract in favor of federal one, FEMA will work with the company and the state to resolve the matter in a way that best serves their people,” the statement read.
FEMA also suggests anyone who learns of hoarding or price gouging of PPE to report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling 866-720-5721 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a bit hard to know what to make of this. The words are pretty clear: “PPE being distributed internally within the United States is not being seized or re-routed by FEMA.”
Something doesn’t fit here. These seizures and reroutings have become commonplace around the country in recent weeks. Given FEMA’s role in the COVID-19 CRISIS response efforts it’s logical to conclude they’re authorizing these actions. In some cases it has been murky just what federal agency is involved. But in other news reports FEMA has publicly discussed its role. If it’s really true that FEMA isn’t doing this, who is? And is it really possible this is happening on a widespread basis around the country and FEMA doesn’t know anything this?
Something here does not fit or something isn’t telling the truth.