More Details on Airlifts and Supply Seizures

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April 6, 2020 10:06 p.m.

Here are a couple more details on shipment seizures and inter-state bidding we’ve been discussing here in recent days. Both are interviews on this evening’s Newshour, flagged to me by TPM Reader KM.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) appeared to confirm one point that remained ambiguous from the press conference last week in which Rear Admiral Polowczyk explained the ‘Airbridge’ flights from China. According to Pritzker, the US military planes airlift the PPE and other medical supplies to the US and then hand them over to the major medical supply distributors the White House taskforce is working with. That part was clear from the discussion April 2nd. What Pritzker confirmed is that the states then have to bid against each other to purchase the supplies from those distributors.

The distributors are McKesson Corp., Owens & Minor, Cardinal Health, Medline Industries and Henry Schein. Polowczyk has sometimes spoken of six or seven distributor partners. So this may not be exhaustive. These five received an exemption from US antitrust laws on Saturday for their collaboration on the COVID-19 Airbridge project.

Before the Pritzker interview Judy Woodruff interviewed Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) about events in his state. He appeared to confirm some version of the FEMA confiscation actions we’ve seen in other areas. But he states it in a more ambiguous way. Beshear says that one of the two problems his state is having is that orders they believe are on the way to their state “will be diverted by the federal government, by FEMA, and sent to a place that needs it.”

This doesn’t sound quite as draconian as the incidents that have been described in other states. And if you watch the video Beshear clearly is cautious about criticizing the federal effort. But the upshot seems similar: FEMA using some kind of extraordinary legal authority to intervene and redirect ordinary commercial transactions and deliveries while the states are supposed to be filling their needs by commercial transactions.

We’re still looking for more information to piece this together. If you know more or see more reports please let us know.

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