FEMA ordered $10.2 million in COVID-19 testing kits it’s now warning states not to use

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has warned states not to use COVID-19 testing supplies it bought under a $10.2 million contract after a ProPublica investigation last week showed the vendor was providing contaminated and unusable mini soda bottles. A FEMA spokeswoman said the agency is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze test tubes filled with saline and sold to the government by Fillakit LLC, whose warehouse is near Houston. “Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend this media not be used at this time,” spokeswoman Alex Bruner said.

Out of state workers for border construction not subject to Governor’s self-quarantine order

Residents in the tiny town of Columbus, New Mexico, along the U.S.-Mexico border, raised the alarm about a border wall construction contractor that seemed to be preparing to move in workers from outside the area. Locals are concerned that out-of-state workers may inadvertently spread COVID-19 to residents. State officials are also concerned about out-of-state travelers entering New Mexico. Last month, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a stay-at-home order for residents and called for those who traveled to the state by air to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering the state. 

But the order does not apply to federal workers or contractors working on federal projects, which includes border wall construction, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The appearance of the housing project in Columbus, referred to as a “man camp” by some, sparked concerns among residents that Galveston, Texas based construction firm SLS Co, which was awarded a contract to construct nearly 50 miles of border wall near the Columbus Port of Entry, was preparing to move in more workers, possibly from out of state, to continue construction on the border wall in southwestern New Mexico’s bootheel. “They set up these man camps, they’re like FEMA trailers.

Trump invites bids to build wall, cites importance of ‘aesthetics’

President Donald Trump built his campaign on the promise of a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. Just a month after his inauguration, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to begin construction. And last Friday, the department took a step to make sure it will look good. In a little-noticed update, the department now says it wants a wall that will be “nominally 30 feet tall,” and, importantly, that bids will be judged on “aesthetics,” as well. The new language, perhaps coincidental but likely not, appears to be a bureaucratic translation of Trump’s oft-repeated promise to build a “beautiful” wall from 30 to 55 feet high.