Kushner Airlift Moves Millions of Masks, But Details Are Secret

A program created by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has airlifted millions of gloves, masks and other coveted coronavirus supplies into the U.S. from overseas — but it isn’t clear who’s getting them and at what price, or how much private-sector partners are earning through the arrangement.

Kushner’s “Project Airbridge” provides transportation via FedEx Corp. and others for supplies that medical distributors, including McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc., buy from overseas manufacturers, mainly in China. Once a supplier’s goods arrive in the U.S., the companies must sell half the order in government-designated hotspots. They sell the rest as they see fit.

The U.S. government provides air transportation for free, to speed the arrival of the products. The six distributors keep the profits, if any.

The program has won praise from some states, where officials say it provided hard-to-find supplies at a critical time in the Covid-19 outbreak, even if it met a fraction of demand.

“We are very supportive of Airbridge and other federal programs that can provide PPE to our first-line responders,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat. “But it doesn’t meet our full-needs.”

Other governors and lawmakers have raised questions, saying they have no visibility into how supplies are distributed and the government has only limited power to direct it. The program appears to run largely outside the standard federal channels for competitive bidding, disclosure and transparency — the government hasn’t documented how the products are sold, how prices are determined or which hospitals and other customers receive the supplies.

Senate Questions

The House Oversight Committee is seeking answers, and Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal wrote to the medical supply companies this week requesting details about their participation in Kushner’s program. “The American people need an explanation for how these supplies are obtained, priced, and distributed,” they said.…

China imposes more checks on mask exports to ensure quality control

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China tightened restrictions on exports of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) on Friday, calling for shipments of the items to be subjected to a mandatory customs inspection, with immediate effect.

The new rules mark the latest bid by China to balance the global demand for PPE to help treat the rising number of cases of the new coronavirus, while ensuring that manufacturers and sellers do not flood the market with uncertified or shoddy products.

The regulations follow highly publicized complaints from some governments and hospitals that they received PPE from China that they considered faulty.

In late March, Dutch officials recalled tens of thousands of masks delivered to the Netherlands from China, stating they did not meet quality standards.

The regulations published on Friday, from China’s customs agency, require companies manufacturing PPE for export to submit extra documentation and go through a government-led inspection process.

This month, authorities established rules requiring mask exporters to provide documentation ensuring their products are registered to be sold in China, and also meet the relevant regulatory standards in the destination country.

Industry experts say the new inspections could lengthen the approval process for shipments of the equipment by days or weeks.

As the coronavirus has subsided in China and spread around the world, a global shortage of masks and other PPE has emerged.

Companies such as LVMH and IKEA launched production lines to help meet the demand, along with scores of large and small manufacturers across China. Many of the new manufacturers have little experience producing medical-grade products and come from sectors unrelated to health.

Maggie Chen, who runs a Shenzhen-based consultancy that helps companies comply with import and export regulations, says that in the short term, the new regulations will further shrink the number of masks on the market and cause prices to increase.

President Trump’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again

President Trump has unveiled Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts. These steps will help state and local officials when reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives.…

Everything you need to know about face masks | COVID-19 Special

How useful are face masks during the coronavirus crisis? Experts can’t really agree on this: Should we wear them? And if so: who should wear them? Do they protect me, or the other person? And which types of masks make sense at all?

In many Asian countries, face masks are regarded as one of the main weapons in the fight against the coronavirus. And in China it’s even forbidden to be on the streets without a mask. Here in Europe, we have mixed feelings about wearing masks. In times of scarcity many believe masks should be reserved for healthcare workers who depend on protection. But that view seems to have changed recently. Now more and more local authorities do recommend to wear masks in public.

So let’s talk about face masks – and what they can do for us during a pandemic.

 …

Why there aren’t enough masks and how-to get more

American hospitals are disastrously short of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), and demand will only increase. They estimate they will need 20x their ordinary supply over the next few months. In its current form, our supply chain cannot handle this demand shock.

In this blog post, I’ll share my view of how this problem happened, and explore some ideas for how we can better serve our healthcare workers.

The current shortage of PPE is not due to a single cause. It has at least five components: insufficient inventory stockpiles, manufacturing capacity and quality control, international trade compliance, air uplift capacity, and working capital financing. And if we don’t plan ahead, we’ll have a sixth, involving last-mile distribution.

1. Inventory Stockpiles

The country’s hospitals, medical distributors, and state and local governments don’t have enough inventory for the 20x demand shock we’re experiencing. The hospitals’ and distributors’ just-in-time inventory models were built on the assumption of normal demand. They did not account for the possibility of a pandemic.

Sadly, it seems key decision makers and regulators in the medical supply chain have not taken the lessons of “The Black Swan” by Nassim Taleb to heart. When this is all over, we will probably see new regulations about PPE inventory levels that distributors maintain as a safety stock, as well as much larger government stockpiles. Those measures might have bridged the gap, but it’s too late for the current crisis, so I’ll turn instead to the problems that we can address right now. Solving for the current crisis will take strong leadership, focused action, and a trusted coalition between government and the private sector.

2. Manufacturing Capacity and Quality Control

China is the only place in the world that can scale manufacturing as fast as we need right now. Our sources estimate the production capacity of Chinese PPE at 160M units per day.