President Donald Trump on Monday announced his plans to sign an executive order to prevent the hoarding and price gouging of supplies that are deemed critical to fighting the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. He made the announcement during Monday evening's White House Coronavirus Task Force update.
The Department of Justice, under the direction of Attorney General William Barr, will work with the Department of Health and Human Services to identify and designate resources that are deemed scarce because of hoarding. The DOJ will prioritize "the detection, investigation, and prosecution of fraudulent activity and price gouging related to medical resources needed to respond to the coronavirus."
According to the White House, making this move will ensure that hospitals, first responders and medical professionals receive critical medical supplies, like personal protection equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves. It will also ensure that those in the health care industry have access to necessary sanitizing and disinfecting products.
"We have started to see some evidence of potential hoarding and price gouging and so, earlier today, the president signed a second executive order providing the authority to address – if it becomes necessary – hoarding that threatens the supply of those necessary health and medical resources," Barr said during Monday's press conference.
The Defense Production Act gives the president the authority to "prohibit the hoarding of necessary resources by designating those materials as scarce or as materials whose supply would be threatened by persons accumulating excessive amounts," Barr explained.
Attorney General Bill Barr discussed a new order to secure the availability of critical medical and health supplies against hoarding and price gouging. pic.twitter.com/XcMkJO9wjP— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 24, 2020
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent respirators, surgical masks, face shields and gloves to designated "hot spots," like New York State, Washington State and California.
The announcement comes as PPEs and cleaning supplies have become scares across the nation. Private businesses, like Hanes, have dedicated part of their facilities to producing N95 face masks, while other businesses, like Anheuser Busch, have begun producing hand sanitizer.
Larger corporations are going the donation route. Facebook recently announced they're planning to donate hundreds of thousands of N95 masks, while Apple pledged to donate two million masks.