Speed Reads

Thanks but no thanks

The U.S. reportedly didn't take up a January offer that would have led to the production of 1.7 million masks per week

The United States government had an opportunity when there was seemingly still time to curb the coronavirus pandemic to strike a deal with a manufacturer that could have produced an additional 1.7 million N95 masks per week, The Washington Post reports. But, ultimately, the money wasn't there.

Michael Bowen, the vice president of Prestige Ameritech who has reportedly been warning about American mask shortages for years, wrote to administrators in the Department of Health and Human Services in January that he was willing to take the "very difficult and very expensive" step of re-activating four dormant machines should the coronavirus situation become dire. If the company did that, they would have been able to produce an additional 1.7 million masks per day, and Bowen wanted the government to get first dibs, even though his phones were reportedly ringing off the hook. The productions lines remain untouched.

Bowen apparently caught the attention of Dr. Rick Bright, who was recently removed as the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, but no one else was on board (Bright briefly mentioned Bowen's proposal in his whistleblower complaint about HHS last week).

White House economic adviser Peter Navarro said Prestige was "extremely difficult to work and communicate with," but an anonymous official told the Post that the "prescient" Bowen has a "legitimate beef. The "reality," the official said, is that HHS "didn't have the money to do it at the time." Read more at The Washington Post.