Monday, May 11, 2020

In January, One Day After US's First Covid-19 Case, An American Company Offered To Manufacture 2 Million Masks Per Week. The Trump Administration Turned Down The Offer.

On January 22, 2020, one day after the first Covid-19 case had been detected in the United States, Michael Bowen of Prestige Ameritech, a medical supply company in Texas, sent an email to the top administrators in the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Trump administration first received warnings of a dangerous virus in China more than two months earlier, in mid-November 2019. The ominous warnings continued throughout December and January. By January 22, EVERY top official in the Department of Health and Human Services should have been on high-alert, preparing for the eventual emergence of the virus in the US, which happened the day before Bowen's initial email.

A few months earlier, the administration had finished an eight-month exercise that revealed, if a pandemic were to emerge in the US, the federal government was in almost every possible way unprepared for that life-and-death challenge. The first warnings about the coronavirus came one month after the exercise had finished. There was no excuse for anyone to be asleep at the wheel.

Bowen told HHS that his company (the last remaining major mask company in the US) could increase production and supply the federal government with nearly 2 million N95 masks per week.

As the Washington Post reported two days ago, Bowen "viewed the shrinking domestic production of medical masks as a national security issue ... and he wanted to give the federal government first dibs".

Bowen wrote:
We still have four like-new N95 manufacturing lines. Reactivating these machines would be very difficult and very expensive but could be achieved in a dire situation.
Laura Wolf, director of the agency's Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection, replied the same day:
I don't believe we as a government are anywhere near answering those questions for you yet.
(That same day, Donald Trump told Fox News: "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China. It's going to be just fine.")

Bowen emailed again the following day:
We are the last major domestic mask company. My phones are ringing now, so I don't "need" government business. I'm just letting you know that I can help you preserve our infrastructure if things ever get really bad. I'm a patriot first, businessman second.
Bowen was also in contact with Robert Kad­lec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and emergency response. On January 27, Bowen emailed Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority: "Rick, I think we're in deep shit."

The Trump administration should have thanked their lucky stars that Bowen contacted them on January 22. Instead, they turned him down. WaPo:
Within weeks, a shortage of masks was endangering health-care workers in hard-hit areas across the country, and the Trump administration was scrambling to buy more masks — sometimes placing bulk orders with third-party distributors for many times the standard price. President Trump came under pressure to use extraordinary government powers to force the private industry to ramp up production.
Even as numerous states were begging for more masks, the Trump administration never contacted Bowen, never reached out to the only mask company based in the US, choosing instead to criticize the individual states and claim the federal government of the United States had no responsibility to those states.

In fact, the Trump administration did not place orders for any masks (and other supplies) until mid-March, two months after Bowen's emails. Which means the administration did zero preparation for four months after it was first warned of the virus. Sixteen weeks came and went and nothing was done.

Bowen's offer is described in Bright's 89-page whistleblower complaint, which was filed last week. Bright alleges the administration retaliated against him because he wanted to "prioritize science and safety over political expediency". One senior US government official with knowledge of the situation admitted Bowen has a "legitimate beef". The official added: "He was prescient, really."

Bowen was extremely prescient — even without the assistance of two months of warnings from US intelligence sources, which is what the Trump administration had.

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