In a Saturday op-ed for USA Today, Bob Bland, the founder of Masks for America, accused Donald Trump's administration of diverting personal protective equipment (PPE) shipments that were intended for medical workers at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
According to Bland, the Trump administration seized shipments that Masks for America was delivering to frontline workers in hard-hit areas of America like New York City, Detroit, and Washington D.C. In particular, Bland says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seized 50,000 N95 respirators that the group ordered and did not provide any explanation as to why or where they were going.
"In my 15 years of working in the manufacturing industry with international and domestic supply chains, I have never — never — had the federal government interfere like this."Such seizures allegedly took place in at least six states, including New York, New Jersey, and San Francisco. As Bland noted, the seizures run in contrast to the Trump administration's decision to pressure states and cities to secure their own PPE instead of relying on the federal government.
Although Bland noted that the seizures are not illegal thanks to the Defense Production Act, she highlighted what she perceived as a concerning lack of transparency in the process.
"The struggle to secure PPE and medical supplies isn't just a failure of leadership in our government but also an unsustainable supply chain issue that has been bubbling just under the surface for years," she wrote, referring to America's reliance on China for the majority of its PPE.
Bland ended her piece by calling on Congress to wrest PPE supply lines from China, who received medical supplies from the U.S. back in February and return manufacturing to the United States.
"Otherwise, we'll continue to be vulnerable, doomed to repeat the deadly missteps of this pandemic," she concluded.A Vanity Fair report from earlier this month echoed Bland's experiences and highlighted other alleged instances of the federal government seizing PPE. According to the report, FEMA has denied involvement in such seizures — a narrative that conflicts with stories from a number of hospital workers.
Bland's report comes as frontline workers continue to raise the alarm about the lack of PPE. As reported by CBS News, Sophia Thomas, the president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, earlier this month told Trump that many nurses are reusing their PPE due to a "sporadic" supply. In response, Trump suggested that Thomas' complaint was not universal to nurses around the country.
"Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people," he said.