Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz says distributors of vital protective masks are attempting to rip off state officials as the government prepares for an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“The President said in the Rose Garden yesterday that the state of Florida and the Governor [are] being extremely aggressive. And we are being aggressive,” Moskowitz said, regarding the issue of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We’re specifically being aggressive when it comes to PPE, which is why I feel compelled to tell you what is happening in the private market when it comes to N95 masks. The N95 private market right now is like a Ponzi scheme.”
“N95” masks are masks that can filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. Those masks are key to helping protect health care workers from contracting the virus as they treat patients. As the virus has spread, Moskowitz and officials from other states have continued to seek an influx of that protective equipment.
“All day long we try to find these masks. We’re talking to brokers. We’re talking to distributors. We’re talking to medical sales people,” Moskowitz said Monday.
“We’re chasing down warehouses only to get there to find out that they’re empty. We’re being told these supplies are on planes only to see that they’re phantom planes, chasing ghosts when they don’t appear on FlightAware. We’re constantly engaging in bidding wars being asked to wire money to accounts that were set up that very same day with email addresses that were created only a couple of days ago.”
Moskowitz detailed those issues at a Monday news conference in Palm Beach County previewing the opening of new a testing center. And he says the problem goes beyond Florida.
“I talk to fellow emergency managers around this country, and they are experiencing the very same thing in the private market dealing with these N95 masks,” Moskowitz said.
On Monday, Moskowitz also laid out the state’s efforts to secure additional PPE supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. Moskowitz said that push has resulted in Florida receiving 500,000 N95 masks, 250,000 face shields, 714,000 gloves, 1.2 million surgical masks and 200,000 gowns.
Overall, Moskowitz has said Florida has been able to purchase even more of much of that equipment from private sellers. But the N95 masks continued to be a problem.
“Right now there is madness in the market,” Moskowitz added.
The root of the problem, according to Moskowitz, is the middle men between the mask manufacturers and the state. He then made a call to manufacturers directly.
“I ask that you sell the Division and our hospitals and our first responders these masks directly at market price and you cut out your distributors and you cut out the brokers,” Moskowitz said.
“The Governor is going to continue to do everything we can to make sure that our health care professionals and our first responders have the PPE that they need. We will chase down every lead. We will spend whatever it costs. But these manufacturers must help us do the right thing. Lives are on the line.”