Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TPM.
What’s Up with the Feds Seizing PPE Shipments to States and Hospitals?

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.

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Confiscated Supplies at Ports and Airports

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.

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A Note on TPM’s Finances and Business During the COVID Crisis

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.

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German Officials Accuse US of COVID Mask Piracy

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.

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COVID Miscellany #1

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.

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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.

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Understanding Global Distribution Networks in The Hour of Chaos

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.

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Fortunes for a Lifetime on Medical Grade Masks

I’ve been on something of a crash course since last night trying to make sense of how and why the federal government is relying – at least to a significant degree – on ordinary market forces to distribute medical supplies during this national crisis. I noted last night in this post and video how this is the plan in terms of how the White House task force is approaching this. These airlifts from abroad are mainly being used to ferry purchases by private distributors. In itself that is not a bad thing. Indeed, it addresses a critical need. So let’s understand that first.

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You Need To Look At This

TPM Reader BW flagged something to me from this evening’s White House press conference that strikes me as pretty remarkable. The US has established an airbridge of flights from abroad to bring in supplies of masks, gowns, all the supplies we’re hearing are in short supply. But in answer to a question from Weijia Jiang of CBS News, the Admiral in charge of this effort explained that those supplies mainly are not going to FEMA or the states. They’re going to private sector distributors. And that seems to be one of the big reasons why states are having to fight amongst themselves over them, bidding up the price along the way.

Here’s the video.

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Hopes Dashed After Trump Mega Fan Announces Mask Hoard

Remember Robert Hyde? He was the Connecticut contractor, congressional candidate and Trump mega-fan who somehow found his way into the Trump/Ukraine scandal. He was the guy updating Lev Parnas on the team he purportedly had surveilling US Ambassador Maria Yovanovich in Kyiv, Ukraine. Seems like a lifetime ago, right?

Well, he’s back. And he’s sitting on a stockpile of n95 masks. Or so he claims. This morning we saw this tweet in which Hyde announced he has ten million N95 and KN95 masks available for delivery, apparently through Finley Hyde & Associates, LLC the lobbying firm he established to provide access to Trump world power-brokers.

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