Officials in at least 6 states are accusing the federal government of quietly diverting their orders for coronavirus medical equipment
- States have been making their own orders for ventilators, masks, and other personal protective equipment since President Donald Trump told them in March not to rely on the national stockpile for medical supplies.
- Trump has also instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to decide which states need equipment first, according to The New York Times.
- But state and health leaders in Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Kentucky, Texas, and Florida are now accusing the federal government of of intercepting and diverting their equipment orders without explaining why.
- "Either you're buying them and you're providing them to the states and letting us know what we're going to get and when we're going to get them. Or stay out and let us buy them," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in comments addressed to FEMA on CNN.
- A FEMA spokeswoman denied seizing any states' shipments, but told The Times that "prioritizing PPE deliveries to COVID hot spots can have the unintended consequence of disrupting the regular supply chain deliveries to other areas of the country."
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The federal government has been accused of intercepting shipments of vital medical equipment ordered by state authorities to shore up their supplies in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
In March, President Donald Trump had told states to seek their own supplies and minimize their requests from the national stockpile, which has resulted in local authorities scrambling to place large orders of ventilators, masks, and other personal protective equipment.
Trump has put the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in charge of deciding which states are in most need of equipment from the national stockpile, replacing the Department of Health and Human Services, according to The New York Times.
Since then, there have been multiple reports of FEMA or the wider federal government diverting thousands of pieces of equipment from the states that ordered them, without explanation.
State representatives say the situation has caused confusion and dismay.
FEMA "swept up" an order for 500 ventilators made by the state of Colorado last week, Gov. Jared Polis told CNN on April 4.
"We're competing against any other state, every other country," he said. "Now we're even competing against the federal government."
"We've been asking what we're going to get from FEMA, we'd love a timeline, and numbers," he added.
Similar accusations have come from officials on the local and state levels in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Kentucky, Texas, and Florida, according to reports in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and an editorial in Talking Points Memo.
Shanel Robinson, freeholder director of the community of Somerset County, New Jersey, told local news outlet the Franklin Reporter and Advocate she had been informed that her order of 35,000 N95 and surgical masks had been diverted by federal government. She said she doesn't know where the masks went.
FEMA spokesperson Lizzie Litzow denied the agency was seizing any shipments, The New York Times reported. FEMA has not immediately responded to Business Insider's request for comment and clarification.
Litzow told The Times that FEMA is aware that "prioritizing PPE deliveries to COVID hot spots can have the unintended consequence of disrupting the regular supply chain deliveries to other areas of the country that are also preparing for the coronavirus."
In comments aimed at FEMA, Polis said on CNN: "Either be in or out, folks ... Either you're buying them and you're providing them to the states and letting us know what we're going to get and when we're going to get them. Or stay out and let us buy them."
The Defense Production Act, which Trump first used on March 27, empowers the president to order manufacturers to make critical equipment, or to prioritize government over private companies and state government in equipment orders.
The Department of Health and Human Services rewrote its definition of the national stockpile on April 3, more closely reflecting earlier comments by senior adviser Jared Kushner that states should not assume they can draw on it.
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