More on the PPE Seizures

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April 8, 2020 11:40 p.m.

I’m very proud that our team has been early on the federal governments seizures of medical supply shipments around the country. We continue to work major leads on this front. If you didn’t read it yet be sure to read Josh Kovensky’s look at the range of powers the federal government can use to seize medical supplies during a public health national emergency. Tonight I wanted to flag your attention to this story published yesterday by The Los Angeles Times on this evolving story.

The story doesn’t contain a lot of new concrete information. That’s not a criticism. Our team can attest it’s quite hard to break any of it free. But it does expand the list of institutions which have been on the receiving end of the seizures. A hospital system in Florida, another in the Pacific Northwest, another in Texas, another in California, another in Minnesota. There’s a good deal of color with quotes, many of them blind, from hospital executives expressing frustration and disbelief at what happened. Again and again we see the same pattern. The institutions that have their shipments disrupted get no clear information what happened, on what legal authority it was done or whether they can expect to get any of the goods back or be made whole from a federal stockpile.

The biggest general question turns on whether these seizures and reallocations are being conducted according to some coherent plan or whether the secrecy is a screen for redistributing them on a preferential basis. The Times tried to get an explanation from the White House. But the response has been we’re using a lot of data and it’s all good.

The biggest takeaway to me is something we’ve seen clearly in our own reporting. Many of the hospital systems and executives insisted that the Times allow them to remain anonymous because they feared retaliation from the federal government. I believe this is a key reason why we still know so little about this. The institutions which have had their shipments disrupted mainly want their stuff back. Going public may help in general. But it almost certainly won’t help whoever decides to go public and complain. So we still know virtually nothing about this. And there’s still no public transparency about who gets the goods and who does not.

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