HHS implements anti-price gouging order amid coronavirus outbreak

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The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday implemented President Trump’s executive order to prevent the hoarding of certain health and medical resources necessary to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday announced a list of certain health and medical resources subject to the hoarding prevention measures, which also target price-gouging.

BARR SAYS DOJ WILL GO AFTER CORONAVIRUS PRICE GOUGERS, HOARDERS

“Today, we designated a set of medical products that will be subject to the president’s recent executive order to prevent hoarding and price-gouging,” Azar said.

The order prevents accumulation in excess of reasonable demands of business, personal or home consumption, or for the purpose of resale prices in excess of current market prices.

The designated materials include N-95 filtering face masks, other “filtering face piece respirators;” air purifying respirators and filters and cartridges. The order also protects chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine (the malaria drugs that are being used to help the symptoms of COVID-19); sterilization services for medical devices; and disinfecting and hand sanitizing products.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) including medical gowns, apparel, surgical gowns, Tyvek suits, PPE face masks, surgical masks and face shields are also protected under the order.

The order also covers portable ventilators, regular ventilators, anesthesia gas machines, and other breathing devices.

“HHS and FEMA will continue working closely together to monitor and address shortages of necessary medical products, and we look forward to working closely with the Department of Justice on hoarding prevention measures,” Azar said Thursday. “The president will take every possible step to get American health care providers the supplies they need to stay safe and save lives.”

Earlier this week, the Trump administration vowed to go after price gougers and those hoarding critical medical supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Very simply, we will not allow anyone to exploit the suffering of American citizens for their own profit,” Trump said Monday.

QUESTIONS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS? ASK AN EXPERT

Attorney General Bill Barr said Monday that he has seen evidence of price gouging and hoarding in recent weeks.

“Once specific materials are so designated, persons are prohibited from accumulating those items in excess of reasonable personal or business needs or for the purpose of selling them in excess of prevailing market prices,” Barr said Monday.

“We’re talking about people hoarding these goods and materials on an industrial scale for the purposes of manipulating the market and ultimately driving windfall profits,” Barr said. “If you have a big supply of toilet paper in your house, this is not something you have to worry about. But, if you are sitting on a warehouse with masks, surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door.”

The order comes after states, like New York, which has become the epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak, complained about price-gouging on necessary PPE like N-95 masks.

As of Thursday morning, the U.S. reported more than 69,100 positive cases of COVID-19. Late Wednesday night, the death toll in the country exceeded 1,000.

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