Millions of N95 Masks Are Being Exported From the US

Do we need Defense Production Act interventions or just export bans? 

This Forbes story sheds light on how Facebook, assorted dot coms, and wealthy donors can show up with tens of thousands or even millions of masks to donate while states and hospitals can't seem to get hold of them.

The buyers—from state government purchasing departments and hospital systems representing facilities throughout the Northeast, Midwest and California—expressed desperation for masks to protect their healthcare workers, but in the end not a single deal was completed with any of these groups, and millions of masks were earmarked to leave the country, purchased by foreign buyers.

When contacting potential buyers, Remington needs two things to secure a deal with a seller: a letter of intent to purchase and proof of funds.

“If you are working with a seller who has masks but you can’t quickly show proof of funds, someone else is going to buy them,” he told me. 

And I watched that happen repeatedly throughout the day. Buyers from state procurement departments and hospital systems expressed desperate need for masks, but the deals bogged down when it came to providing proof that they could commit and follow through. In the meantime, another buyer provided proof of funds and the masks were gone, sometimes within the hour.

That may be why Facebook and dot coms can procure N95 masks while government agencies can't. Dot coms with massive resources and publicity hungry CEOs can cut through all the red tape by just paying them for the masks and donating them.

Remington received text updates from his network about ever-changing quantities of masks in Houston, New Jersey, Miami, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities, along with cities in Canada and the UK. I was astounded by the numbers of masks at these locations. At one point he received an update that 43 million masks were available in New Jersey, in the same time-frame that federal and state leaders were saying in press conferences that they were “scouring the globe” for masks. But the masks in New Jersey, along with many million more, didn’t go to any domestic buyer. Instead, according to the broker, they were all purchased by foreign buyers.

“Most of the masks are leaving the country,” he told me.

This seems like an "export ban" problem.

If health care workers are at risk in this country, there's much more of a case for an export ban for masks than for oil.

By the end of the day, roughly 280 million masks from warehouses around the U.S. had been purchased by foreign buyers and were earmarked to leave the country, according to the broker — and that was in one day.

To his knowledge none of the masks had been purchased by buyers in the U.S.  

The White House can quickly stop this, secure masks for health care workers, and stop the bleeding.

That is not the case in countries that have cracked down on exports, he added, but as of now the U.S. is allowing many types of medical supplies to leave the country even as states and hospital systems are expressing desperate need for masks and other PPE.

These open borders trade policies are literally putting American lives at risk.

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