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 Indian Health Service acknowledged on Wednesday that 1 million respirator masks it purchased from a former Trump White House official do not meet Food and Drug Administration standards for “use in healthcare settings by health care providers.”
The IHS statement calls into question why the agency purchased expensive medical gear that it now cannot use as intended. The masks were purchased as part of a frantic agency push to supply Navajo hospitals with desperately needed protective equipment in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. ProPublica revealed last week that Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, formed a company in early April and 11 days later won a $3 million contract with IHS to provide specialized respirator masks to the agency for use in Navajo hospitals.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas signed onto an amicus brief earlier this month in support of a lawsuit launched by reproductive groups against the state of Texas. Abortion rights groups sued Texas last month to reverse Gov. Greg Abbott’s restriction on abortion access during the public health emergency. The ban, which was supposed to last until late April, allowed an abortion only if the pregnant person’s life was in danger. Some courts have sided with Texas and some have opined in favor of the abortion rights groups as it has ricocheted through the courts over the last few weeks. Earlier this week, a Texas appeals court allowed medication abortion to resume but not abortions that require a procedure.
ByChristina Jewett and Lauren Weber, Kaiser Health News |
The Trump administration quietly invoked the Defense Production Act to force medical suppliers in Texas and Colorado to sell to it first — ahead of states, hospitals or foreign countries. It took this action more than a week before it announced Thursday that it would use the little-known aspect of the law to force 3M to fill its contract to the U.S. first. Firms face fines or jail time if they don’t comply. The Cold War-era law gives federal officials the power to edge out the competition and force contractors to provide supplies to them before filling orders for other customers. While it’s unclear how many times the power has been used during the coronavirus pandemic, federal contracting records examined by Kaiser Health News show that federal authorities staked first rights to $137 million in medical supplies.
Former Independent and Green Party congressional candidate Carol Miller tested positive for COVID-19 more than 21 days ago. Miller ran for Congress as an Independent in 2008 and for the Green Party in a special election in 1997. Miller is 73, which puts her in a high-risk category. But she is asymptomatic. She hasn’t had any of the symptoms – no fever, cough or shortness of breath – of this type of coronavirus.