Health and Science

US customs will seize exports of gloves, masks and respirators amid coronavirus pandemic

Key Points
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection will start to seize exports of personal protective equipment, according to a joint statement from CBP and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • PPE subject to seizure under this policy includes N95 respirators, air-purifying respirators, surgical masks, surgical gloves as well as other types of respirators.
  • FEMA will determine whether the equipment should be returned for use in the U.S., purchased by the U.S. government or exported.
3M N95 particulate filtering face mask are seen at a store in East Palo Alto, California, United States on January 26, 2020.
Yichuan Cao | NurPhoto | Getty Images

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will start to seize exports of personal protective equipment facing shortages amid a spike in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a joint statement from CBP and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

PPE subject to seizure under this policy includes N95 respirators, air-purifying respirators, surgical masks, surgical gloves as well as other types of respirators. FEMA will determine whether the equipment should be returned for use in the U.S., purchased by the U.S. government or exported.

The new policy aims to prevent crucial medical supplies from being diverted abroad and was instituted in response to a memorandum from President Donald Trump, according to the statement.

Trump issued a memorandum Friday on allocating scarce medical resources to domestic use and directed the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services to use the Defense Production Act to keep crucial medical supplies in the U.S.

The U.S. has experienced severe shortages in medical supplies for frontline health-care workers as the coronavirus continues to spread. Hospitals have resorted to setting up websites to facilitate mask donations from the public and medical professionals have been forced to use expired protective equipment. Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was in need of 3.3 million N95 masks and 400 ventilators.  

Governors across the country have slammed the federal coronavirus response, saying the lack of preparation and medical supplies has led to states competing against each other for life-saving resources. The battle for supplies has led to price gouging and caused the cost of masks to rise from 85 cents to $7, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Companies have resorted to manufacturing critical medical equipment to help fill in the gap, even if they aren't usually in the health industry. Apple and Nike are making face shields, while Ford and General Electric plan to manufacture 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.

Last Thursday, Trump used the Defense Production Act to further enlist the help of manufacturers. He directed the HHS to help facilitate the supply of ventilator materials for six companies -- GE, Hill-Rom Holdings, Medtronic, Resmed, Royal Philips N.V. and Vyaire Medical.

"I am grateful to these and other domestic manufacturers for ramping up their production of ventilators during this difficult time," Trump said in a statement.