- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services have distributed hundreds of thousands of essential medical supplies seized from hoarders to first responders battling the coronavirus pandemic in New York and New Jersey, the agencies announced Thursday.

The FBI discovered the supplies last month during an operation by the Justice Department’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force.

Roughly 192,000 N95 respirator masks, 598,000 medical grade gloves, 130,000 surgical masks and several quantities of surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray were distributed to healthcare workers, the agencies said.

HHS will pay the owner who hoarded the equipment fair market value for the supplies based on pre-coronavirus prices.

“Cracking down on the hoarding of vital supplies allows us to distribute this material to the heroic healthcare workers on the frontlines who are most in need,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

President Trump last month signed an executive order aimed at preventing price gouging and hoarding of critical medical supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the Defense Production Act, Mr. Trump is authorized to prohibit the hoarding of needed resources by designating them as scarce or threatened by people accumulating excessive amounts.

The Justice Department responded by forming a task force to tackle the issue. At the time of the president’s announcement, Attorney General William P. Barr said the Justice Department and HHS were working to identify possible cases of hoarding.

Mr. Barr said Thursday the task force is working “around the clock” to prevent price gouging and hoarding.

“If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door,” he said in a statement.

Medical gear is in short supply across the country, but New York and New Jersey have been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and are in desperate need of essentials.

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