The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are announcing the distribution of hoarded personal protective equipment (PPE) to combat the coronavirus crisis in New York and New Jersey.
In a statement released on Thursday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar shared the results of an investigation conducted by the DOJ’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force.
In addition to more than 130,000 masks, Azar confirmed a surplus of other medical supplies — including “598,000 medical grade gloves and 130,000 surgical masks, procedure masks, N100 masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, bottles of hand sanitizer, and bottles of spray disinfectant” — were also discovered.
The supplies will be sent to New York and New Jersey — the two states have been labeled epicenters of the coronavirus in the U.S.
Azar also made it clear the agency would continue to conduct investigations. Hoarding will also be taken seriously in an effort to obtain and properly distribute medical supplies to healthcare workers on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.
“Cracking down on the hoarding of vital supplies allows us to distribute this material to the heroic healthcare workers on the frontlines who are most in need,” Azar said.
He went on to credit President Donald Trump’s approach to their aggressive ability to combat hoarding to improve coronavirus response efforts. Azar is also encouraging the public to report hoarding and price gouging.
“Thanks to the quick work of the White House, the Department of Justice, and HHS, the seized resources were distributed in days to the doctors, nurses and first responders who need them,” he said.
He added, “President Trump’s all-of-America approach to combating the coronavirus involves an aggressive approach to stopping hoarding, and the American public can play a role by being on the lookout for this behavior.”
With the release of the statement, Azar took to Twitter with an announcement, confirming HHS would be paying the fair market price to the owner of the hoarded items.
HHS will pay the owner of the hoarded equipment pre-COVID-19 fair market value for the supplies and has begun distributing to meet the critical need for the supplies among healthcare workers in New York and New Jersey.— Secretary Alex Azar (@SecAzar) April 2, 2020
In the statement, Azar is also encouraging those interested in selling medical equipment to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
While the federal government is open to purchasing medical equipment from owners, Attorney General William Barr has made it clear that price gouging will not be tolerated.
“If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door,” Barr said.