Seized medical supplies in US to be given to health care workers

New York, April 3 (IANS) The hoarded personal protective equipment seized by the FBI in a price-gouging investigation will be distributed to New York and New Jersey health care workers to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

The equipment, including about 192,000 N95 respirator masks, was discovered on Monday as part of an investigation by the Department of Justice’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task force, the Hill news report said.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Thursday it will pay the owner of the hoarded equipment the “fair market value” for the supplies, based on prices before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic.

HHS said it used its authority under the Defense Production Act to order the supplies to be turned over to the government.

In addition to N95 masks, authorities seized 598,000 medical grade gloves, 130,000 surgical masks, as well as procedure masks, N100 masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, bottles of hand sanitizer and bottles of spray disinfectant, the Hill said in its report.

HHS arranged for the gear to be sent to the New Jersey Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Officials said this is the first of many similar investigations that are underway.

“If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door,” Attorney General William Barr said in the announcement.

“The Department of Justice’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force is working tirelessly around the clock with all our law enforcement partners to ensure that bad actors cannot illicitly profit from the COVID-19 pandemic facing our nation.”